As Edward Frenkel sees it, the way we teach math in schools today is about as exciting as watching paint dry. So it's not surprising that when he brings up the fact that he's a mathematician at dinner parties, the eyes quickly glaze over. "Most people, unfortunately, have a very bad experience with mathematics," Frenkel says. And no wonder: the math we learn in school is as far from what Frenkel believes is the soul of mathematics as a painted fence is from The Starry Night by Van Gogh, Frenkel's favorite painter.
The Russian born Berkeley mathematician, whose day job involves probing the connections between math and quantum physics, wants to change that. Rather than alienating drudgery, Frenkel views math as an "archipelago of knowledge" that's universally available to all of us, and he's been everywhere of late spreading the word. In particular, Frenkel is intent on warning us about how people are constantly using (or misusing) math to get our personal data, to hack our emails, to tank our stock markets. "The powers that be sort of exploit our ignorance, and manipulate us more when we are less aware of mathematics," says Frenkel, on this week’s episode. If you hated math in high school, maybe that will catch your attention.
This episode also features a discussion about whether offshore wind farms can protect our coasts from hurricanes, and new insights on the possible physical location of memory within the brain.