Mathematics is about numbers, shapes, symmetry, chance, change
and more. Much more. Math is not only the most
rigorous mental discipline ever invented, it's
among the richest, most wide-ranging and most useful.
Indeed, mathematics is deeply interwoven into all of
Mathematics is the natural language of science and engineering,
for example, as well as being an essential tool for business
and industry. No surprise there: these activities were math's
original inspiration. Its historical roots go back to our
ancestors' first attempts to keep account of their
goods, to measure their fields and to predict events in
the heavens, and eventually, the techniques they invented grew
into arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus and a host
of other subdisciplines.
Mathematics is also central to the information revolution.
Downloadable music files, DVD movies, digital special effects and
secure online credit card transactions, essentially
any software application you can think of, owes its existence
not just to computers, but to the mathematical algorithms
that run on computers.
Then too, mathematics is a thing of fiercely compelling
beauty in its own right. A vast conceptual framework that
extends from Fermat's last theorem to the quantum
mysteries of superstring theory to the fragile intricacies
of fractals, and far, far beyond.
And of course, mathematics is a field that is still growing,
still evolving, still finding new applications. The National
Science Foundation contributes to that effort as the leading
supporter of fundamental mathematics research in the United
States. Among the major research topics now being explored