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Those Amazing Flying Mathematicians

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Author:Keith Devlin (Devlin's Angle)
Description: October is the month when those of us living in the United States see migrating birds moving south for the winter. How do they know which direction to fly?... Assuming that the average bird is not the mathematical equivalent of a college math major, how do the birds do it?.... To many people, mathematics is merely a collection of techniques for calculating. But when you look around at many of the things we do with mathematics, you realize that it is a powerful mental framework that enables human beings to extend their capabilities well beyond those for which our evolution directly equipped us. According to the old joke, "If God had meant us to fly, he'd have given us wings." A more accurate version would be, "Obviously God wanted us to fly; that's why He gave us a brain that was capable of developing mathematics, which we could use to invent and build airplanes and develop methods and technologies to navigate when we are in the air."

Levels: High School (9-12), College, Research
Languages: English
Resource Types: Articles
Math Topics: Animal Biology

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