Math and Politics

Published on Friday, October 04, 2013 in , ,

Scott Blake's mosaic of George WashingtonThe hot topic of the week has been, of course, politics.

I generally avoid politics on this blog, since it's far removed from my main focus of mental feats and techniques. However, there are crossroads where politics and math do cross paths.

Generally, the closest I get to politics is the basic stuff, such as memorizing facts about the USA. The advocacy side of things is best left to experienced political bloggers.

I do think it's important to realize that even politics can't escape the effects of math, and vice-versa. This brief introduction to Arrow's Theorem points out that an ideal voting system, as defined by the stated conditions, not only doesn't exist, but is impossible to develop.

For example, let's take a look at First Past The Post voting and its problems, with some help from CGP Grey:

Again, it's not that just this particular system is flawed, but that any voting system with the conditions set forth in Arrow's Theorem will be flawed. For an exploration of other voting systems, check out CGP Grey's other voting system videos.

It's not surprising that politics could be swayed in one way or another, as many accept it as part of the nature of the beast. Math itself, on the other hand, is heavily dependent on things such as proofs and peer-review, so there's no way that math could be corrupted by politics, right?

If you agree with that, James Grime and Numberphile have some bad news for you, as a recent study has findings to the contrary.

Hopefully, this brief post has given you food for thought, and maybe even discussion, in the likely and numerous discussions of politics in the days ahead. If you have any thoughts on mixing politics and mathematics, I'd love to hear them in the comments!

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