James C. Clements: Week 1
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Before Question Responses
- Hearing the term "mathematics" makes Gauss come to mind.
- I do not consider myself a mathematician since I am not dedicated to the discovery of new mathematics.
- I think about green plants and microbes when I hear the term biology
- I do not consider myself a biologist. As an individual pursuing bioengineering, I am focused on using what has been discovered about biology to improve the quality of human life. I see biologists as the people who make discoveries about biology.
After Question Responses
- The most provocative part of the Stewart reading is how he broadly encompasses every use of mathematics into the work of a mathematician. I think that this means of categorizing what a mathematician does is fairly naive and devalues what mathematicians really do; yes math is used in science and engineering, but that does not make those folks mathematicians. A mathematician pushes the field of mathematics into new places. A pure mathematician focuses on proving concepts and an applied mathematician brings math to new applications. Conversely, an engineering using a Fourier transform for the quadrillionth time to interpret a signal from the Mars Rover is not a mathematician; this person would simply be using math.
- I find the bit in section 5 of the Janovy chapter about how it is not necessary to be a professional in order to be a biologist to be particularly interesting. I agree with Janovy that being a biologist in the broad definition of the term does not require professional training, but I do think professionals ask the right questions more often than amateurs. It seems that the key difference from undergraduates and professors and that professors are better able to ask questions that can get to the core of phenomena. Since the skill of questioning appears to be acquired, I would argue that professional biologists are capable of producing work that is vastly superior to that of the amateur.
- To paraphrase from Janovy, being a biologist requires making novel observations about nature and melding them into a synthesis of understanding. I still do not consider myself a biologist after reading the text. Instead of observing nature in its own setting and bringing about new understanding, I have a desire to observe human issues and use an understanding of biology in order to solve such issues.
- Stewart seems to believe that just about anyone with a pulse is a mathematician. The manipulation of numbers is the only requirement for participating in the field. I strongly disagree with this, please refer to my response to question 1. I do not consider myself to be a mathematician; I don't do any sort of work that brings the field to new places.
- The most common theme between the readings is the idea that math and biology surround us and that the studying of each field helps bring humans to a new place in history. Aside from the subject matter, the type of writing differs. Stewart's text is written (perhaps unintentionally) as a defense of mathematics. He writes passages like "does anyone besides me actually make a living doing math?" that imply that the common view of mathematics is that it is not lucrative. Throughout the text Stewart defends mathematics from several other "broadly conceived" notions. Janovy, on the other hand writes about what it means to be a naturalist and how to participate in the field. He writes from the stance that not everyone understands what it means to be a naturalist without coming across while maintaining a positive tone about his subject.