Listen: Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg on "Uncertainty and Contradiction: Mathematics in the Liberal Arts"

Math is thought of as a discipline where the point is to get the right answers. In fact, the interesting part of math is much more likely to concern asking the right questions. And when it does come time for answers, math is not black and white; it concerns itself with uncertainty and contradiction. In this lecture, Jordan Ellenberg tells some math stories concerning World War II bombers, Nate Silver, a summer job he had in college, and the Pythagorean theorem; recites some poetry; argues against Theodore Roosevelt; and tries to make the case that thinking like a mathematician is especially useful in domains of uncertainty, ambiguity, and apparent paradox. 

Jordan Ellenberg is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Mathematics at University of Wisconsin. Ellenberg regularly contributes to Slate and has written articles on mathematical topics for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and Wired. He is the author of the best-selling book How Not to Be Wrong. Ellenberg spoke on campus as part of the 2014-15 Arnold Dresden Memorial Lectures, named for an esteemed mathematics professor who taught at Swarthmore from 1927-1952.