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Portal:Mathematics

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Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, pattern, structure, and change. Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered.

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Mathematik Göttingen.jpg
Mathematics department in Göttingen where Hilbert worked from 1895 until his retirement in 1930
Image credit: Daniel Schwen

David Hilbert (January 23, 1862, Wehlau, Prussia–February 14, 1943, Göttingen, Germany) was a German mathematician, recognized as one of the most influential mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He established his reputation as a great mathematician and scientist by inventing or developing a broad range of ideas, such as invariant theory, the axiomization of geometry, and the notion of Hilbert space, one of the foundations of functional analysis. Hilbert and his students supplied significant portions of the mathematic infrastructure required for quantum mechanics and general relativity. He is one of the founders of proof theory, mathematical logic, and the distinction between mathematics and metamathematics, and warmly defended Cantor's set theory and transfinite numbers. A famous example of his world leadership in mathematics is his 1900 presentation of a set of problems that set the course for much of the mathematical research of the 20th century.

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diagram of a unit circle and several associated triangles whose side lengths are the values of the various trigonometric functions
Credit: Steven G. Johnson (original version)

This is a graphical construction of the various trigonometric functions from a unit circle centered at the origin, O, and two points, A and D, on the circle separated by a central angle θ. The triangle AOC has side lengths cos θ (OC, the side adjacent to the angle θ) and sin θ (AC, the side opposite the angle), and a hypotenuse of length 1 (because the circle has unit radius). When the tangent line AE to the circle at point A is drawn to meet the extension of OD beyond the limits of the circle, the triangle formed, AOE, contains sides of length tan θ (AE) and sec θ (OE). When the tangent line is extended in the other direction to meet the line OF drawn perpendicular to OC, the triangle formed, AOF, has sides of length cot θ (AF) and csc θ (OF). In addition to these common trigonometric functions, the diagram also includes some functions that have fallen into disuse: the chord (AD), versine (CD), exsecant (DE), coversine (GH), and excosecant (FH). First used in the early Middle Ages by Indian and Islamic mathematicians to solve simple geometrical problems (e.g., solving triangles), the trigonometric functions today are used in sophisticated two- and three-dimensional computer modeling (especially when rotating modeled objects), as well as in the study of sound and other mechanical waves, light (electromagnetic waves), and electrical networks.

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