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The Sciences

Algebra reprised

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanFebruary 19, 2006 4:52 AM

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A friend of mine told me that they thought my comment on Richard Cohen's infamous algebra column was pretty lame and lightweight. I had to plead that time was at a premium when I threw that up there, and a lot of the ground had been covered. But, as someone who writes posts titled 8th grade math for the rest us, I figure I should add a bit more, and that bit is this: knowledge of algebra is sufficient to balance the "two sides" to every issue phenomenon. Algebra allows one to swim out of the sea of noise and impute a sense of proportionationality to various alternative defensible statements. To generate a net calculus when presented with a sequence of alternative options it is necessary to consider the relations of unknown variables to known variables. To assess questions as to the "speed of evolution" it is important to consider the output generated by parameters, presented in algebraic form. Algebra ties together disparate distinct facts in various nests of relations and allows us to model higher order structures in our minds' eye. Is that a skill that a widely read general interest columnist should have? I would hope so, but I won't hold my breath....

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