Lizzie Armitstead took up cycling to get off maths
July 30, 2012
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I have just googled “Lizzie Armitstead”. I got 76,000 hits. I then googled “Gauss”, and got 16,400,000. Euler: 18,000,000. Pythagoras: 6,210,000. Isaac Newton: 3,970,000. Leibniz: 10,700,000. Fermat: 4,370,000. Let’s try something a bit more specific. Maclaurin series: 514,000. Bessel function: 1,230,000. Boolean algebra: 1,140,000. Turing machine: 2,090,000.
Ms Armitstead’s bicycle is made of alloys and (probably synthetic) polymers. Leaving aside the complexities of mining engineering and commodities markets, the manufacture of the alloy components requires accurate temperature measurement and thermostasis, using three-term control, with differential and integral terms. The manufacture of the polymers will almost certainly have been modelled in order to get the conditions right to achieve the right range of relative molecular mass and tacticity. This would have engaged thermodynamics and statistical mechanics which are both branches of applied maths used by physicists, chemists, and materials scientists.
You do not “get off” maths when you become an Olympic cyclist. Rather, you get on it. It is the choice of the individual concerned how much or how little of the underlying intellectual achievement he or she wishes to learn about.