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Mathematics and Universe: Two sides of a coin

Playing to win

Each year, millions of people travel to casinos hoping they will come away richer. Many more people
visit their local supermarket each day to bet with lottery cards. People play the stock market, join in the
office football pool, and meet with friends on the weekend for a game of poker. Why do we invest this
money on chance? We do it because we believe we can beat the odds. We believe in the possibility of
winning.

Mathematical principles can tell us more than whether it is possible to win. They can tell us how often we
are likely to win. The mathematical concept that deals with the chances of winning a lottery drawing or a
poker game is probability. If we can determine the probability that a certain event (such as winning the
lottery) will occur, we can make a better choice about whether to risk the odds.

Savings and Credits

Do you avoid gambling on the stock market or at a casino because you fear heavy financial losses?
You may be surprised to hear that you're just as likely to lose money because of your everyday
banking decisions. Many people collect only 1 to 3% interest on money in a savings account while
simultaneously paying rates as high as 18 to 20% on credit card balances. Over time, this can mean
some pretty heavy losses.

With some math smarts and an understanding of simple and compound interest, you can manage
the way your money grows (and ideally keep it from shrinking). The principles of simple and
compound interest are the same whether you're calculating your earnings from a savings account
or the fees you've accumulated on a credit card. Paying a little attention to these principles could
mean big payoffs over time.

Home Decorating

What does math have to do with home decorating? Most home decorators need to work within a
budget. But in order to figure out what you'll spend, you first have to know what you need. How
will you know how many rolls of wallpaper to buy if you don't calculate how much wall space you

The word geometry literally means "to measure the Earth". Geometry is the branch of math that is
concerned with studying area, distance, volume, and other properties of shapes and lines. If you
need to know the distance between two points, the volume of water in a pool, the angle of a tennis
serve, or how much wallpaper it will take to cover a wall, geometry holds the answers.

Cooking by Numbers

Not all people are chefs, but we are all eaters. Most of us need to learn how to follow a recipe at
some point. To create dishes with good flavor, consistency, and texture, the various ingredients
must have a kind of relationship to one another. For instance, to make cookies that both look and
taste like cookies, you need to make sure you use the right amount of each ingredient. Add too
much flour and your cookies will be solid as rocks. Add too much salt and they'll taste terrible. We
are using Ratios: Relationships between quantities and proportion in everyday life.

The Universal Language

Mathematics is the only language shared by all human beings regardless of culture, religion, or
gender. Pi () is still approximately 3.14159 regardless of what country you are in. Adding up the
cost of a basket full of groceries involves the same math process regardless of whether the total is
expressed in rupees, dollars, rubles, or yen. With this universal language, all of us, no matter what
our unit of exchange, are likely to arrive at math results the same way.

Very few people, if any, are literate in all the world's tonguesHindi, English, Chinese, Arabic,
Bengali, and so on. But virtually all of us possess the ability to be "literate" in the shared language
of math. This math literacy is called numeracy, and it is this shared language of numbers that
connects us with people across continents and through time. It is what links ancient scholars and
medieval merchants, astronauts and artists, peasants and presidents.

In Nature

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13... This is the Fibonacci sequence, where each number is derived from adding
the previous two numbers. This sequence of numbers can be found in many natural patterns like
in pineapples, sunflowers, nautilus and pine cones.
Our eyes are usually drawn to objects that are symmetrical. Leonardo Da Vincis Vitruvian Man
is often used as a representation of symmetry in the human body. The Soothing Symmetries
exhibit anchors this section and explains what symmetry means to science and in mathematics,

as well as in everyday life.

Is one infinity bigger than another infinity? The size of all natural numbers, 1,2,3..., etc., is infinite.
The set of all numbers between one and zero is also infinite - is one infinite set larger than the other?
The deep questions of maths can leave you feeling very small in a vast universe.

(Image: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Geometric sequence

Bacteria such as Shewanella oneidensismultiply by doubling their population in size after as little as 40
minutes. A geometric sequence such as this, where each number is double the previous number [or
f(n+1) = 2 f(n)] produces a rapid increase in the population in a very short time.