Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why, So What, and Who Cares!

In the continuing saga of my contemporary mathematics studies, I ran across the following titled “The Death of Leibniz’s Dream” while reading the class textbook:

For hundreds of years, mathematicians pursued Leibniz’s dream of finding a universal method of symbolic reasoning. In 1931, Kurt Gödel of Princeton University discovered one of the most remarkable results in all of the history of mathematics. His result, called Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, showed that by starting with a finite set of assumptions and then proving theorems in a mathematical theory such as elementary arithmetic, there will always exist statements that are true but that cannot be proved using the theory. This result was a disappointment to those mathematicians who has believed that all mathematics could be developed from logic alone, thus Leibniz’s dream was finally laid to rest!

The book's author inserts these little gems in an attempt to link the course material with the real world. Now mind that this course is offered to non-science majors who only need a single math credit to meet the general requirements for graduation. Now maybe times have changed, but when I attended college, the most important thing to know was what would be on the test. I guarantee you, no one ever discussed Leibniz’s Dream and its subsequent death! Thinking back, we occasionally had celebrations on the weekends, so maybe one of them was in Mr. Leibniz’s honor!

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