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College of Arts and Sciences

Shapes of Mathematical Elegance

By: J. Edward Anthony
Cornell Chronicle
November 13, 2020

Mathematician Karola Mészáros, associate professor of mathematics, unlocks long-held secrets of classic polynomials by thinking geometrically, explains an article on the Cornell Research website.

"Like a language, math evokes ideas that exist independently of any particular set of symbols," says the article. "In algebra, for example, a polynomial usually appears as numbers and letters strung together by plus and minus signs, such as x2 + xy + y2. Algebraic expressions are such a familiar way of denoting polynomials that it’s easy to lose the distinction between the concept and its representation, as with a dollar bill or a cartoon cat.

"But polynomials are not a tangle of numbers, variables, and plus or minus signs any more than a tiger is the five-letter word. A poem, a child’s picture book, and a Netflix series each conjures a tiger in its own way. So it is with mathematicians."

Read the story on the Cornell Research website.