During my early days in school I discovered that I had an aptitude for all things numeric. Patterns in sequences seemed to be easily noticed, the mathematical methods that were taught proved to be understood with minimal effort. I enjoyed mathematics, yet I still never had any idea of its uses, apart from the calculation of how much pocket money was to be given amongst five people. At the time, that was sufficient.
My impression of mathematics remained until in later years, it seemed that the methods being taught proved a tad more difficult to understand. Always one to understand concepts easily in previous years, study skills were tools I had never fully developed. In typical youth style, I decided that if it is too difficult, then it is not worth learning. The purpose of integration, differentiation, the idea of numbers that do not exist in reality, it seemed as though we were being thought ideas with no practical application. At least, this is how I perceived it.
Upon finishing school, I was very unsure with how to proceed with my life. After a period of time given to contemplate my options, I decided to go to college. Music, however, was my original choice. Even though I seemed to have turned my back on mathematics, I still maintained the pattern recognition techniques from previous years. Those proved to be highly beneficial assets as I studied the electric guitar, despite the fact that I did not know so at the time. After a time, I began to see all aspects of music broken into patterns. Numbers once again entered my life.
All scales were simply different arrangements of notes in a given repeating sequence. Starting position and ending position defined the mode of that scale. As time progressed, I delved somewhat deeper into this. The spacings of frets on a guitar, the scale lengths and string gauges, tension, tone, timbre, I wished to understand why these things were the way they were. The physical aspects of mathematics intrigued me such to the extent, that I enrolled for a degree in physics.
Fast forward a few more years, and I am now approaching my third year. Had I known of, or at least attempted to comprehend the uses of mathemtical methods during my schooling days, the past few years could have been less tumultuous. What was seen several years previously as a set of useless ideas now proved to be a fantastic base for viewing, modelling, and understanding the world, and the universe around us.
Mathematics, as I see it, is a set of tools for all to use, a language with limitless applications. Syntax and application may differ throughout the universe, but the method and results will not. It is the only field of study in which there are absolute answers, absolute predicitons. All aspects of society, from the design of buildings, to determination of population models require mathematics to aid with their continual amelioration, in one such way or another.
For these improvements to occur, a deep understanding is required of the mathematics involved. Although many can manipulate equations and obtain results, it was the true greats that fully understood the math behind the model: Maxwell, Einstein, Schroedinger, these are but a few who gave greatly to the fields of physics, through the use of mathematics. Although such adeptness is generally uncommon, it is, and shall remain, the discoveries that are mathematical in nature which allow us to further progress, and develop the world surrounding us.
Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I foresee myself delving into the depths of mathematics beyond that which I already understand, by continuing my study in the field of physics. The concept of dynamical systems as a postgraduate field of study intrigues me, and I shall be determined to never let slip my respect for those magical numbers again. To those who study mathematics, a noble salute I bid to you all, and to those mathematical musicians, don’t give up on those numbers.