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# How do mathematicians know when to stop? Watch

But what's the point of just going on and on if it doesn't benefit society?
You miss the point of art completely.
2. (Original post by Bobifier)
Can you explain why this is the case?
Suppose we were living in primitive times and had just invented the decimal system for counting. Inventing the binary system then would not benefit society.

"Number theory of Roman numerals" is another branch of maths that could be invented today but will probably not benefit society.
Suppose we were living in primitive times and had just invented the decimal system for counting. Inventing the binary system then would not benefit society.

"Number theory of Roman numerals" is another branch of maths that could be invented today but will probably not benefit society.
You have pointed out that in a single time (not even of relevance to our society), a single development in mathematics would not have improved things. This in no way serves to back up your claim that almost all maths is unbeneficial. I suspect that the reason you are struggling to back your claim up is that actually it is false.
4. (Original post by Bobifier)
You have pointed out that in a single time (not even of relevance to our society), a single development in mathematics would not have improved things. This in no way serves to back up your claim that almost all maths is unbeneficial. I suspect that the reason you are struggling to back your claim up is that actually it is false.
How about "Number theory of Roman numerals". Do you think it is worth being developed?
How about "Number theory of Roman numerals". Do you think it is worth being developed?
Number theory does not depend upon notation - the theory in Roman Numerals is identical to the theory in decimal. It has already been developed. Perhaps the reason you are asking these questions is that you don't actually know anything about Maths?

At risk of repeating myself, I would also like to point out that you have simply offered another example. No individual example or set of examples will suffice to demonstrate that almost all Maths is useless to us. In order to back up the point you have made, you need to say something about the nature of Mathematics rather than the nature of narrow parts of Mathematics.
But any branch of mathematics is just a human invention. Since we could (in theory) invent infinitely many branches of mathematics, how do we decide which branch is more worthy of study than the other? It has to be based on the usefulness.
Inventions are invented. Science (eg: Maths) is discovered. Mathematicians aren't just pulling numbers out of their arse and acting all smart, they discover abstract mathematical concepts that describe the world around us. So yes, learning about maths is learning about life.

Suppose we were living in primitive times and had just invented the decimal system for counting. Inventing the binary system then would not benefit society.
Exactly. The Binary System was pretty useless when it was first formed, yet modern computing wouldn't exist the way it does today without it. It's all about forming working models of the world around us, which quite often (though not necessarily always) yields useful applications.
7. (Original post by Bobifier)
Number theory does not depend upon notation - the theory in Roman Numerals is identical to the theory in decimal. It has already been developed.
What I meant was being able to do all sorts of calculations using Roman numerals.

Perhaps the reason you are asking these questions is that you don't actually know anything about Maths?
Please don't resort to personal insults.

At risk of repeating myself, I would also like to point out that you have simply offered another example. No individual example or set of examples will suffice to demonstrate that almost all Maths is useless to us. In order to back up the point you have made, you need to say something about the nature of Mathematics rather than the nature of narrow parts of Mathematics.
Just like in mathematics, we see if something is true for a few special cases and then try to prove it in general.
8. (Original post by Vian)
Inventions are invented. Science (eg: Maths) is discovered. Mathematicians aren't just pulling numbers out of their arse and acting all smart, they discover abstract mathematical concepts that describe the world around us. So yes, learning about maths is learning about life.
Imho lots of maths is arguably more of an art than a science.
What I meant was being able to do all sorts of calculations using Roman numerals.

Please don't resort to personal insults.

Just like in mathematics, we see if something is true for a few special cases and then try to prove it in general.
Regardless, such an oddly specific example tells us nothing about the nature of Mathematics. Furthermore, we can perform calculations in numerals by converting the numbers to decimal, performing our calculation, then converting them back. I have just created a complete theory of your problem, you are focussing on something of a triviality.

I am not resorting to personal insults. It is increasingly clear that you know nothing about mathematics and if this is the case then it is a waste of both our times to discuss Mathematics with each other. You should not try to comment on issues that you don't know anything about. At the very least you should try to take a brief amount of time to understand them. Whether you understand how Maths works is very significant to discussion with you in this thread. If we find that you know nothing about Maths then your questions can be answered simply by you learning more about Maths.

Finally, that is not what we do in Maths. It is simply not. That is not how Maths is done. Specific cases tell us nothing. Furthermore, you have incorrectly used the word 'special'. It is true that sometimes in Maths we will take special cases and generalise, but the special cases are almost always themselves general in some way, and the examples you have chosen are actually not in any way special. They are oddly random cases that are nothing to do with the nature of Maths and everything to do with fitting the specific criteria you have selected to try to prove your point. Again, and for the last time, I will tell you that if you cannot say something about the nature of Maths and if all you are capable of doing is giving (stupid) examples then you have already defeated your own argument.
10. (Original post by Bobifier)
Regardless, such an oddly specific example tells us nothing about the nature of Mathematics. Furthermore, we can perform calculations in numerals by converting the numbers to decimal, performing our calculation, then converting them back. I have just created a complete theory of your problem, you are focussing on something of a triviality.

I am not resorting to personal insults. It is increasingly clear that you know nothing about mathematics and if this is the case then it is a waste of both our times to discuss Mathematics with each other. You should not try to comment on issues that you don't know anything about. At the very least you should try to take a brief amount of time to understand them. Whether you understand how Maths works is very significant to discussion with you in this thread. If we find that you know nothing about Maths then your questions can be answered simply by you learning more about Maths.

Finally, that is not what we do in Maths. It is simply not. That is not how Maths is done. Specific cases tell us nothing. Furthermore, you have incorrectly used the word 'special'. It is true that sometimes in Maths we will take special cases and generalise, but the special cases are almost always themselves general in some way, and the examples you have chosen are actually not in any way special. They are oddly random cases that are nothing to do with the nature of Maths and everything to do with fitting the specific criteria you have selected to try to prove your point. Again, and for the last time, I will tell you that if you cannot say something about the nature of Maths and if all you are capable of doing is giving (stupid) examples then you have already defeated your own argument.
Let me turn the question around: Can you prove that most (if not all) branches of mathematics that can be developed will benefit society?
Let me turn the question around: Can you prove that most (if not all) branches of mathematics that can be developed will benefit society?
Easy, by induction - the scientific kind and not the mathematical kind. Most if not all branches of mathematics have consistently proved useful in the past, therefore it is reasonable to expect that future developments will also be useful.
12. (Original post by mmmpie)
Easy, by induction - the scientific kind and not the mathematical kind. Most if not all branches of mathematics have consistently proved useful in the past, therefore it is reasonable to expect that future developments will also be useful.
That's a circular argument because most branches of mathematics have been developed in response to scientific needs. For example, calculus was invented by Newton to solve mechanics problems.
That's a circular argument because most branches of mathematics have been developed in response to scientific needs. For example, calculus was invented by Newton to solve mechanics problems.
That's not quite true. A lot of branches (I suspect the majority, although I can't really justify it), particularly in pure mathematics, were developed for their own sake, and then turned out to be incredibly useful later on. Either way, it wasn't a circular argument at all.

Do you have a similar problem with, say, music or other art forms?
14. (Original post by Cerdog)
Do you have a similar problem with, say, music or other art forms?
Not with music.

But sometimes, I wonder why people paint pictures from nature anymore. Such pictures had to be painted before the invention of the camera. However, today I would rather look at a photo than at a painting.
Not with music.
What's the difference? Music is much less of a benefit to society than maths is.
16. (Original post by Cerdog)
What's the difference? Music is much less of a benefit to society than maths is.
Unlike complicated maths, music has therapeutic value.
Unlike complicated maths, music has therapeutic value.
Doing maths is very therapeutic in itself, but even disregarding that, are you implying that those aspects of music outweigh the myriad benefits mathematics has had on society?
18. (Original post by Cerdog)
Doing maths is very therapeutic in itself, but even disregarding that, are you implying that those aspects of music outweigh the myriad benefits mathematics has had on society?
Obviously not. But I think any kind of music is more "beneficial" than useless mathematics.
Obviously not. But I think any kind of music is more "beneficial" than useless mathematics.
The world needs to be shot of people such as yourself.

http://thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=math

Regards,
The somewhat more intelligent half of the human race.
20. (Original post by Xtrapolation)
The world needs to be shot of people such as yourself.

http://thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=math

Regards,
The somewhat more intelligent half of the human race.
FYI, I'm a student of mathematics (see some of my posts way back in '08 and '09) and am very passionate about the subject. The reason I do it is for the intellectual challenge. The question in the OP is just something I was musing upon.

Updated: May 8, 2012
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