Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The world by numbers: How mathematics explains objects and events

By Shane Huntington

Mathematician Prof Chris Budd discusses how mathematics seeks to explain and predict real life phenomena, from the simple movement of objects to complex “chaotic” systems such as the weather.

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Mathematical descriptions of physical and biological processes are often described as elegant. But they are rarely simple. Often equations that appear quite simple only hold true for very specific conditions. When we start to introduce the complexities of the real world, more complex mathematical approaches need to be applied – approaches that are far from the equations the likes of Sir Isaac Newton would have been familiar with. Many of the problems tackled by mathematicians today involve multiple properties, multiple objects and multiple potential interactions between those objects. In some cases, subtle changes in approximations made by a mathematician can result in significant differences in predictions. To describe the approach taken by mathematicians in solving real world problems, and to explore some of the equations used, we are joined today on Up Close by Professor Chris Budd, Professor Applied Mathematics at the University of Bath and Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Professor Chris Budd is in Melbourne to speak at the Maths of Planet Earth Australia Conference, organised by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute along with the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.