Once Paul Dirac famously quipped “If there is a God, he’s a great mathematician” and it is in this fervor that during a recent distinguished gathering of scientists with pioneering contributions to mathematics and allied sciences I posed a few questions to elicit alternate view points on the issue of universality and essentiality of mathematics in our world.
It is indeed no wonder, that mathematical studies are universal in their applications and appeal, so much so that they have become an indispensable tool to more disciplines than ever before. In addition to enchanting the human mind, mathematical sciences form a basis for all logic, quantitative developments, reasoning and research. Broadly speaking much of the critical thinking and advancements from the origins of the universe to our own existence is attributable to an interface between mathematics and allied sciences as understood and realized by eminent mathematicians, statisticians, physicist, computer scientists, medical practitioners, engineers, management scientists and other professionals.
The emphasis on the role of mathematics as an interface in evolving interdisciplinary approaches to solve the toughest problems that humanity faces is now a fact of life. Critical developments have been possible only because of mathematics in evolution of basic and applied sciences involving disparate areas such as modeling and simulation in various areas of sciences & technology such as computer based applications, operations research, industrial mathematics, quantitative studies in economics and business management, recent developments in bio-mathematics, bio-physics and bio-statistics, in pharmaceutical sciences, flow sciences, geophysics and earthquake engineering, mathematical analysis and numerical solutions of differential equations.
But we have to be careful in our assumptions on the universality of mathematical approaches, lest we forget the wise crack made by Albert Einstein in “Sidelights on Relativity” when he commented, “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality”. I am sure that in all humility the scientific community will keep this wisdom in mind as we understand the laws of nature and our own existence.