Like a Shakespearean sonnet that captures the very essence of love, or a painting that brings out the beauty of the human form that is far more than just skin deep, Euler's Equation reaches down into the very depths of existence.

— Keith Devlin

The most scandalous Keith Devlin quotes that will activate your inner potential

Calculus works by making visible the infinitesimally small.

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I certainly do care about measuring educational results.

But what is an 'educational result?' The twinkling eyes of my students, together with their heartfelt and beautifully expressed mathematical arguments are all the results I need.

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A PhD in Mathematics is three years of guessing it wrong, plus one week of getting it right and writing a dissertation.

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Indeed, nowadays no electrical engineer could get along without complex numbers, and neither could anyone working in aerodynamics or fluid dynamics.

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The whole apparatus of the calculus takes on an entirely different form when developed for the complex numbers.

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The human brain finds it extremely hard to cope with a new level of abstraction.

This is why it was well into the eighteenth century before mathematicians felt comfortable dealing with zero and with negative numbers, and why even today many people cannot accept the square root of minus-one as a genuine number.

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What makes it possible to learn advanced math fairly quickly is that the human brain is capable of learning to follow a given set of rules without understanding them, and apply them in an intelligent and useful fashion. Given sufficient practice, the brain eventually discovers (or creates) meaning in what began as a meaningless game.

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In addition to its use in arithmetic and science, the Hindu-Arabic number system is the only genuinely universal language on Earth, apart perhaps for the Windows operating system, which has achieved the near universal adoption of a conceptually and technologically poor product by the sheer force of market dominance.

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There can be very little of present-day science and technology that is not dependent on complex numbers in one way or another.

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The increased abstraction in mathematics that took place during the early part of this century was paralleled by a similar trend in the arts. In both cases, the increased level of abstraction demands greater effort on the part of anyone who wants to understand the work.

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I saw the first one [video with Hans Rosling ] when he did - I think it was his first one - in 2006, a TED Talk. And for the first time in my life, I thought here's someone who can take statistics that most people regard as dull and boring and bring it alive.

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The completion of a rigorous course in mathematics - it is not even necessary that the student does well in such a course - appears to be an excellent means of sharpening the mind and developing mental skills that are of general benefit.

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About Keith Devlin

Quotes 27 sayings
Profession Mathematician
Birthday March 16, 1947

We mathematicians are used to the fact that our subject is widely misunderstood, perhaps more than any other subject (except perhaps linguistics).

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Cardinal arithmetic will be quite important for us, so we spend some time on it.

Since, however, it tends to be trivial, we shall not need to spend much of this time on proofs.

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Just as music comes alive in the performance of it, the same is true of mathematics. The symbols on the page have no more to do with mathematics than the notes on a page of music. They simply represent the experience.

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The linear-programming was - and is - perhaps the single most important real-life problem.

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Given the brief - and generally misleading - exposure most people have to mathematics at school, raising the public awareness of mathematics will always be an uphill battle.

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In fact, we tend to think things have been getting much worse.

In fact, over the last 50 years, almost everything in the world on a global scale has got better. And the way that Hans [ Rosling] did this - it was very good.

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Though the structures and patterns of mathematics reflect the structure of, and resonate in, the human mind every bit as much as do the structures and patterns of music, human beings have developed no mathematical equivalent to a pair of ears. Mathematics can only be "seen" with the "eyes of the mind". It is as if we had no sense of hearing, so that only someone able to sight read music would be able to appreciate its patterns and harmonies.

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I've never met Hans Rosling, but I just knew him through his many YouTube videos, and they were absolute dynamite.

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Sure, some [teachers] could give the standard limit definitions, but they [the students] clearly did not understand the definitions - and it would be a remarkable student who did, since it took mathematicians a couple of thousand years to sort out the notion of a limit, and I think most of us who call ourselves professional mathematicians really only understand it when we start to teach the stuff, either in graduate school or beyond.

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For all the time schools devote to the teaching of mathematics, very little (if any) is spent trying to convey just what the subject is about. Instead, the focus is on learning and applying various procedures to solve math problems. That's a bit like explaining soccer by saying it is executing a series of maneuvers to get the ball into the goal. Both accurately describe various key features, but they miss the what and the why of the big picture.

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In fact, when you try to use [Hans Rosling] data to predict the future, all sorts of problems arise. But what it does do is say, hey, just catch your breath a minute and see what's really been going on. We do have reason to feel good about the fact we've made progress.

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Some of the justifiable critiques has been by - been so successful in telling this story, you know, there's a danger of saying, oh, well, you know, we don't need to worry about this because that's absolutely not the case. What [Hans] Rosling is doing is showing us an overall global trend, which in a sense tells us how bad things were - doesn't mean to say the problems are gone, doesn't mean to say they're any less.

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I firmly believe that mathematics does not exist outside of humans.

It is something we, as a species, invent.

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In fact, the answer to the question "What is mathematics?" has changed several times during the course of history... It was only in the last twenty years or so that a definition of mathematics emerged on which most mathematicians agree: mathematics is the science of patterns.

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