The Usefulness of Trivial Pursuits: The Successes of Recreational Mathematics

Friday, 14 February 2014
Columbus AB (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Jason Rosenhouse , James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Probability theory, central to modern science, emerged from a seventeenth-century conversation on gambling between Pascal and Fermat.  Non-Euclidean geometry, studied for its own sake in the nineteenth century, is today a critical tool for physicists.  These are just two examples of a recurring theme.  This presentation will make explicit a central truth of solving practical problems: You never know where the next great idea is coming from.