June 13, 2016

‘Is mathematics useful?’

The AIMS Public Lecture Series presents a talk titled:

‘Is mathematics useful?’

By Martin Grötschel, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Abstract: Calculating percentages, profit margins, areas, volumes, and other simple computations
are obviously useful. Is this all the mathematics that people encounter in daily life? Is there more
mathematics “contained” in the products that surround us? Do industry and commerce really need mathematics? Is the mathematics taught at universities useful at all? Should it be? I will address these questions in my lecture.

My view: Mathematics plays a very important role in the modern world and mathematicians have a much higher responsibility (than many of us are aware) in the world-wide efforts to solve the big
challenges of our time. Mathematics is one of the most important intellectual endeavors of mankind but is also a versatile tool to support whatever is done in science, technology, business, society, etc.

In my lecture I can’t cover all the issues involved but will try to elucidate how a combination of
application specific mathematical modeling, simulation and optimization is affecting industry and
business. I will demonstrate by means of many examples where and how the mathematical methods developed in my (former) research environment in Berlin (TU Berlin, Research Center Matheon and Zuse Institute) is already affecting our lives.