Mathematics and its effect on communication

It is Bacon who said:

Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend.

He went on to recommend the study of mathematics to make the mind “less wandering”:

Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again.

At the AMS Graduate Student blog, Luke Wolcott writes about the effect mathematics on his emails (which reminded me of the above sentences of Bacon):

Doing math has trained me to communicate concisely, tersely even.  As I became more and more socialized into my math department, my email correspondences became shorter and denser.  At some point, friends in other departments (e.g. Gender Studies, Communications) started to comment on the Robot Luke that sent them emails, and I started to wonder if I should intentionally increase verbosity.

The post of Luke also reminded me of Sheila Dhar and her music teacher Pran Nath; Pran Nath believed that if you have to sing Hindustani, you should stop speaking English!

One Response to “Mathematics and its effect on communication”

  1. gaddeswarup Says:

    The question is how much mathematics is good and for what? I wonder whether too much practice with building logically on foundations to go where\ever one’s fancy may take will make the practitioners loose touch with the real world. After the days of Euler, many great mathematicians have been notoriously unsuccessful in the areas outside mathematics even when they tried hard. This includes Gauss and Riemann who tried hard to come up with an electromagnetic theory. Apart from Poincare to some extend, I do not think any mathematician since ninteenth century has been really successful outside mathematics. I wonder whether something like probability and statistics would be more useful but I do not know either area though many Indians practiced them well.

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