Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Avoiding ambiguity", by Sunetra Gupta, Nature, 9 August 2001.

In this week's regular "Words" column, Gupta compares mathematical andpoetical metaphors, studies the powers and limitations of the language ofmathematics, and laments how the language of mathematics has beenmisappropriated by some in the social and biological sciences. "The languageof mathematical reasoning is no less beautiful for the lack of concealmentof meaning.... What makes mathematics special is its promise of prophecy,the promise that it will help us understand all mysteries and all knowledge.Without a humble awareness of its limitations, such prophecies can have avery hollow ring."

--- Annette Emerson