# How do you answer "So what's the practical application....?"

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I told you the metaphor is wrong. Thank you.

Simple? No. Tool? Only a very small part of it is actually in daily use.
You told me it is wrong, yes, but I'm not agreeing with you. With logic, sorry, I was thinking of programming logic, which is very simple.

Part of set theory is being used eh? Wow, so it is a tool after all, even if all the applications haven't been figured out yet

symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Gold Member
I think to consider mathematics merely as a tool box, is a bit like high school students think of mathematics as a mean for calculations.
As if it had anything to do with calculations.
I thought the question is the general public asking what the practical use is?

But I also honestly don't see it as anything other than a toolbox. Why do people use mathematics if not to solve problems?

The pursuit of it, well, that is another matter.
The way Mathematics works, is that people also like to explore; and this is what is the study and development of new Mathematics - the insights which Mathematicians and others did not have before.

Mark Harder
Gold Member
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This answer is too vague for most people, unfortunately. What tools? What do you mean?

-Dave K
The kinds of tools we mean are manifold. Perhaps the concept is best communicated to lay persons with a few examples. Read my earlier post about abstract algebra and equations for what I envision as one instructive example.

The way Mathematics works, is that people also like to explore; and this is what is the study and development of new Mathematics - the insights which Mathematicians and others did not have before.
Yes, but is the question "why do you pursue knowledge?" or "what does that knowledge end up used for?"

It doesn't matter that there is no existing use for something, or that one can't be thought of. The fact people are building it means it exists as a tool.

The kinds of tools we mean are manifold. Perhaps the concept is best communicated to lay persons with a few examples. Read my earlier post about abstract algebra and equations for what I envision as one instructive example.
The way to select the right example is by first asking the questioner about themselves and their lives. If people want a one-size-fits-all answer, well whoever comes up with one will make an absolute fortune in education.

dkotschessaa
Mark Harder
Gold Member
The way to select the right example is by first asking the questioner about themselves and their lives. If people want a one-size-fits-all answer, well whoever comes up with one will make an absolute fortune in education.
Good points, all.

With a tangible, albeit virtual, example:

When the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem was announced on the front page of the New York Times a mortgage securities strategist at an investment bank said to me, " How much money did he make spending his whole life on this?" I said "None. He didn't do it for money." He shook his head and said,"What a waste." and walking away - no doubt to go do something practical.
Like create credit default swaps or some other financial scam for big bucks.