xii Foreword: “Five-Minute Mathematics” in Die Welt
story about cryptography and the challenges of breaking secret codes
is certain to get the attention of many pupils.
The science of mathematics is central to our lives. It is to be found
everywhere one looks: from the scanner at the checkout counter, the
calculation of mortgage interest, and the PIN code on your debit card
to computer tomography in medicine and the design of automobiles
and airplanes. Mathematics makes possible space probes to distant
planets and brings robots to life. It is the driving force behind tech-
nological advances and—if one allows oneself to be drawn into the
subject—simply unbelievably fascinating.
Even if no bridge was laid down in far-off schooldays, there are
still opportunities for grownups to approach the subject. For one
thing, the coverage of science and technology in the media has im-
proved enormously in recent years, although alas, such cannot be
said for coverage of mathematics. Only a few newspapers and tele-
vision outlets report regularly, or even sporadically, on topics related
to mathematics even though there is much that is worth reporting. It
would appear that many editors consider the subject of mathematics
taboo.
Die Welt does not suffer from such fears and is not afraid, for
example, of devoting a double-page spread to the number π (25 Feb-
ruary 2006).
With the weekly column “Five-Minute Mathematics” from the
pen of Professor Ehrhard Behrends, the newspaper has provided a
stable editorial forum for the publication of one hundred columns on
mathematical topics. From the large number of readers’ responses,
we know that the column has generated considerable interest. Math-
ematics has been communicated—packaged in motivational stories—
concisely and succinctly, comprehensibly and competently. And won-
der of wonders, the unpalatable subject of mathematics has suddenly
developed a pleasing taste.
“Five-Minute Mathematics” deserves to reach readers beyond the
subscribers to the newspaper Die Welt, and we are pleased that with
this book, the publishing house Vieweg Verlag is making this series
of one hundred columns available to a wider public.
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