Unproductive discipline boundaries

I'm interested in how math & the humanities can share insights with each other. I'm tired of the barriers these disciplines place between each other. Many math & English departments especially have an icy relationship. I can't speak to the math perspective, but I've seen English departments treat math as magical & regard it as a competitor for funds. This frustrates me. As a writer, I see a lot of beauty in math, especially its relationship to logic.

Unproductive discipline boundaries

@rusty Even in my own field of bioinformatics, where math and stats are crucial to understanding anything that we look at, there is still a tenuous relationship between the biologists and the mathematicians.

Coming from the math side, the biggest thing I came to

realize was that these groups think in very different ways, and are concerned with very different problems. So even though they're in the same room, they don't know how to talk to each other

Unproductive discipline boundaries

@rusty The biology people don't seem to understand what makes the mathy people interested in their problems, and many don't understand the math required. So it's easy for non-math people to regard math as magical

Unproductive discipline boundaries

@rusty The tricky thing about getting math and a non-math field to work together is to be able to state "interesting" problems in a mathematical way.

That's not easy. It takes a lot of work by the mathematicians to reframe problems the non-math people are experiencing because they have to understand the problem very clearly to even be able to ask mathematical questions.

And even then, what counts as "interesting" to either party can be polar opposites

Unproductive discipline boundaries

@jrhawley Thanks for your thoughtful response here! You really bring out a central issue: that disciplines give us critical perspectives, but can also make us blind to other modes of thinking. As a composition instructor untrained in advanced maths, your last post especially caught my attention: the difficulty in translating problems "in a mathematical way." Cool stuff!

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Unproductive discipline boundaries

@rusty Thanks! Haha yeah, it's funny sometimes because someone will be describing a wet lab experiment to me and I start asking a bunch of questions about a miniscule step in their process that they don't really care about but has all sorts of interesting little offshoots that I can draw and model.

They'll look at me all confused because they don't know why I care about that step at all