From the beginning I was torn between doing a history EE on the effects of prostitution in the nineteenth century, or on the history of the Congo. I ultimately refined it to the Congo as prostitution was not viable. What made this process difficult for me, is that I had a lot of trouble committing to one research question as I find many parts of history interesting. My supervisor and I then refined the research question to be on the causes of the first and second Congolese wars rather than focusing on the Congo crisis, Belgian imperialism or conspiracy theories about both. We decided on causes because it can include aspects from both the Congo crisis and imperialism, but also because it allows for extensive analysis. In addition, it would stop me from going too far into subjects lacking in sources. Unfortunately I had was slow in writing an outline, as there were so many things I wanted to include.
After run for rights we haven’t been doing as much at Daraja in terms of the UWC community at large. However, I’ve been doing this small project where for approximately twenty minutes each lesson I do a presentation on an issue to do with women’s rights or education world wide. Most recently, we did FGM. There was a presentation and it was honestly very disappointing because there was a group discussion, and I felt that many of the people in the GC weren’t engaged. They just didn’t particularly care about women’s rights that weren’t in their everyday lives, and I don’t know how to change that. However, I do know that in showing people global issues like FGM, and raising awareness, perhaps we can make some change. In this way we’ve been engaging with issues of Global Significance, not only by raising money for girls education at Run for Rights, but also by raising awareness and thinking critically about issues relating to gender equality and education.
In December I was in line to get food at Santai, and I ran into Manuel who was doing tech week for Candide. He invited me up to the tech booth to watch what he was doing, and I realized it was really interesting that I actually wanted to spend more time on it. So, I asked him if I could help out with The Odyssey, and thus my very own odyssey began.
Following the turn of the year, we decided to reorganize the GC into different groups. I ended up heading a group centered around creating short activities at the beginning of each meeting for the purpose of widening group members’ knowledge of issues surrounding our GC’s main topics, women’s rights, education, and human rights specifically in Africa. This was near the end of the year, so we didn’t do many presentations. Some members of the group did a presentation on the #MeToo movement. One activity I was directly involved with was a presentation and discussion on female genital mutilation. I was pleasantly surprised that many embers of the GC knew what FGM was, but disappointed that they didn’t know much more than the definition. I found it very difficult to get group members to truly engage in with the subject. I even tried splitting the discussion into smaller groups but found that they just wouldn’t discuss the issue. I know that it’s an extreme oversimplification to say that no one cared, but I certainly felt that there was a lack of passion surrounding the issue. I worked on this project with two other girls, and we were all rather frustrated by the lack of audience participation. However, it wasn’t a complete failure, because at the very least, those listening learned a bit more about the subject. In future, I’m not sure what I can do to make people care more about activities I lead. Some activities will be flops, but I think it’s important not to give up, and remember that you may have stimulated thought in others without even knowing it.
There are some types of math that are applicable to the real world, and some that aren’t. That’s why a person can spend their entire mathematical career on theoretical maths, and a different person can spend all that time on applied maths. Therefore it’s hard to figure out whether ‘math is applicable in the real world’.
On one hand math is intrinsic in what we do, even before we knew what math was we started counting, math existed before we created it. Math arises from the world naturally, and as such there are naturally a lot of applications of it. When we go to more abstract concepts it becomes less clear as to how they can be applied in the real world but maybe we’ll find a way they can be applied in the future. We get so caught up in notation we forget that math is very intrinsic to human nature and our world. In natural sciences we can use math to model everything. Because math arises from nature and nature has those mathematical patterns we can make use of those and apply them to different aspects of nature that may not seem mathematical. Part of the reason it may seem that some math doesn’t have practical applications is that the advancement of human mathematical development is very far ahead of technology and sciences. For example computer scientists use a lot of the factorization theorums first developed by Euclid who is long dead. The fact is that when Euclid formulated these theorums he didn’t know they would have such far reaching consequences, he had no idea what a computer is. That shows how many application math can have not just now, but far into the future. Maybe our ideas of research in modular theory, like solving for Fermat’s last theorum could potentially have far reaching consequences in modeling our world and certain things in the future of this world. This shows how math has many applications not only in the present, but also in things we haven’t even thought of. Even things that don’t seem to have applications in the real world may have applications in the future. In addition, it doesn’t necessarily need to have practical applications in that sense as math can help you develop your mental faculties, which can be applicable in may different things.
However there’s always the argument that math is a social construct and isn’t inherent on the world. In that sense, math isn’t real and can’t truly be applied to the real world. Math is perfect and the real world is not. Sometimes math can have models for things but they tend not to be perfect. That’s why uncertainties are so important and common in math. A lot of science is math, and in things like theoretical physics, it may be all math. In that sense, math is used to solve questions in physics, but it can’t be tested in the real world as of yet, so there’s no way of knowing whether certain maths are applicable. That’s why we can’t prove string theory. In a lot of math, data is required, but it’s never enough to have a full truth.
Overall, I think that if certain areas of math don’t seem to have applications in the real world, they may in the future, and that’s why I can’t say that math does or doesn’t have real-world applications with absolute certainty.
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