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A physicist no longer


Mathematics is a discipline in its own
Francis Crick Scientist
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Well, I wouldn’t put mathematics as a science. I would… I would put that as separate. I think there is a continuity between… between physics and chemistry and biology in that sort of way. Mathematics can apply to all of them, but mathematics is a discipline in its own… its own right. You can develop mathematics which has nothing necessarily to do with the everyday world, although when they do produce these unusual forms of mathematics it’s rather surprising how often they tend to be applied to things in the real world. But the criteria difference, you don't have to do… in the ordinary way, you don’t have to do experiments to show that a mathematical proof is right. Nowadays it gets complicated because they have… the proofs are so elaborate they have to do part of them on computers so people like to think of them as experimental. And some systems can’t… non-linear dynamic systems are not easy to attack with mathematical ideas, so sometimes you have to simulate them. But leaving those complications aside, mathematics, I think, should be put slightly on one side. The other scientists… sciences have a lot in common except you have this different character in physics, and in chemistry and biology because of the… of the nature of the problems that… of the material involved and the nature of the problems that have to be solved.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: mathematics, science, physics, chemistry, biology

Duration: 1 minute, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 24 January 2008