I am one of the few people on this world who actually enjoys mathematics. I like its abstraction and self-contained nature. I’m reasonably good at it up to a point. It is satisfying to ponder a question and to have insight into how to approach it. And however good you think you are, there is always going to be something that leaves you floundering.

Mathematics has a great deal of relevance in the ‘real’ world, whatever that means. Most people don’t realise it, but there is a great deal of mathematics involved in how for example mobile phones encode your voice into a stream of 1s and 0s in an efficient manner. In decoding the signal at the other end, many factors need to be taken into account. The signal being transmitted may be from a moving object and therefore there are Doppler shifts to take into account. The signal may be received as one strong signal and smaller delayed signals corresponding to the reflection of the transmitted signal from buildings. All of this needs to be done in real time and is actually transmitted by your phone at multiple frequencies in packets and not continuously.

Telecommunication is just one area where mathematics plays a vital part in our lives. The encoding/decoding problem occurs in situations such as writing/reading a DVD, encrypting and sending data over a public network, to name just two others.

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