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Home » The Beauty I See in Algebra: Margot Gerritsen at TEDxStanford (Full Transcript)

The Beauty I See in Algebra: Margot Gerritsen at TEDxStanford (Full Transcript)

Margot Gerritsen

Margot Gerritsen – TRANSCRIPT

I’m going to take you back to class, to school, to algebra, and that’s probably the last thing that you wanted to do in a TED talk today. Maybe you remember in algebra class that you learned how to solve small systems of equations in variables X, Y, Z, and maybe they didn’t tell you exactly what these X, Y, Z were, and you were left with the impression that these equations were not particularly interesting nor particularly beautiful.

But actually equations like these are the very core of science and engineering, and all the algebra around them. And because each of these equations defines a relationship between these variables X, Y, and Z, and relationships and connections are all around us.

Now, for that reason, we love them, and I want to share some of that love with you today. Maybe you remember how to solve these equations, you express most of these variables in terms of one or another, here Y and after some manipulations, you get a final equation for Y that you can then solve that gives you back X and then Z. That works really well for these small systems of equations.

But perhaps you had these nightmares of going into class one day, and your teacher writing down on the board this test of equations and saying, “Go ahead and solve them.” Now the equations that I work with, have thousands if not millions of variables, and obviously we would really need a very big piece of paper, and a lot of patience to solve in the way you were taught. So, of course, we don’t. Instead we use computer programs.

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