Some of the most remarkable achievements of science are the mind-boggling measurements it has contributed throughout history to our collective understanding of the universe. For example, a simple google search will reveal that the radius of our galaxy is 52850 light years, and that the Andromeda galaxy is 2.537 million light years away. You can also find out that the mass of an electron is 0.00000000000000000000000000091093837 grams. Sadly, I don’t think I will have time to discuss these great numbers in this lecture. However, I will mention a few simpler, but still great measurements in history and how they involved calculating with precision. I will also reflect on what our knowledge of such matters tells us about the nature of mathematics as human heritage.
Mathematics is a jungle: a jubilee of flowering plants and mysterious animals. The mathematician is a naturalist, describing the behaviours of whatever she encounters on her tours. With the advent of computers and modern technologies, the dispatches of the naturalist can now be illustrated in full colour. In my own travels, I’ve collected some illustrations that I hope will surprise and delight you. I’ll show you – in technicolour – some of the lesser-known antics of the inhabitants of the mathematical realm, including complex and rational numbers and the roots of polynomials.