Portal:Mathematics

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Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, pattern, structure, and change. Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered.

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Banach-Tarski Paradox.svg
Banach–Tarski paradox
Image credit: Benjamin D. Esham

The Banach–Tarski paradox is a theorem in set-theoretic geometry which states that a solid ball in 3-dimensional space can be split into a finite number of non-overlapping pieces, which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball. The reassembly process involves only moving the pieces around and rotating them, without changing their shape. However, the pieces themselves are complicated: they are not usual solids but infinite scatterings of points. A stronger form of the theorem implies that given any two "reasonable" solid objects (such as a small ball and a huge ball) — solid in the sense of the continuum — either one can be reassembled into the other. This is often stated colloquially as "a pea can be chopped up and reassembled into the Sun".

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animation illustrating the meaning of a line integral of a two-dimensional scalar field

A line integral is an integral where the function to be integrated, be it a scalar field as here or a vector field, is evaluated along a curve. The value of the line integral is the sum of values of the field at all points on the curve, weighted by some scalar function on the curve (commonly arc length or, for a vector field, the scalar product of the vector field with a differential vector in the curve). A detailed explanation of the animation is available. The key insight is that line integrals may be reduced to simpler definite integrals. (See also a similar animation illustrating a line integral of a vector field.) Many formulas in elementary physics (for example, W = F · s to find the work done by a constant force F in moving an object through a displacement s) have line integral versions that work for non-constant quantities (for example, W = ∫C F · ds to find the work done in moving an object along a curve C within a continuously varying gravitational or electric field F). A higher-dimensional analog of a line integral is a surface integral, where the (double) integral is taken over a two-dimensional surface instead of along a one-dimensional curve. Surface integrals can also be thought of as generalizations of multiple integrals. All of these can be seen as special cases of integrating a differential form, a viewpoint which allows multivariable calculus to be done independently of the choice of coordinate system. While the elementary notions upon which integration is based date back centuries before Newton and Leibniz independently invented calculus, line and surface integrals were formalized in the 18th and 19th centuries as the subject was placed on a rigorous mathematical foundation. The modern notion of differential forms, used extensively in differential geometry and quantum physics, was pioneered by Élie Cartan in the late 19th century.

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General Foundations Number theory Discrete mathematics
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