According to G. H. Hardy, the ‘real’ mathematics of the greats like Fermat and Euler is ‘useless,’ and thus the work of mathematicians should not be judged on its applicability to real-world problems. Yet, mysteriously, much of mathematics used in modern science and technology was derived from this ‘useless’ mathematics. Mobile phone technology is based on trig functions, which were invented centuries ago. Newton observed that the Earth’s orbit is an ellipse, a curve discovered by ancient Greeks in their futile attempt to double the cube. It is like some magic hand had guided the ancient mathematicians so their formulas were perfectly fitted for the sophisticated technology of today.
Using anecdotes and witty storytelling, the book “Why does math work … if it’s not real?: episodes in unreasonable effectiveness” explores that mystery.