How maths and physics are intertwined in our daily lives

Posted on the 7th October

Maths and physics always seem to be lumped together to create an amalgamation of a single topic. Ironically, the best way to describe the connection between the two is by using covalent bonds in chemistry. Maths and physics are individual atoms that share electrons. Whilst the atoms themselves are separate there is significant overlap in key topics between the two.


For physicists, maths is a tool used to answer the questions they pose. One of the most difficult mathematics topics, calculus, was developed by famous physicist Isaac Netwon, best known for getting a concussion from an apple, to help describe the laws of motion. 


On the flip side, physics is viewed by many mathematicians as a source of inspiration, with theoretical concepts like general relativity and quantum theory providing unique motivation to develop new maths tools. 


Maths is not simply a string of numbers, equations and calculations. It is a unique language just like English, Mandarin, Latin, German, French, etc… you get the idea. Some of the greatest scientists in human history like Pythagoras (best known for his work on triangles) and Galileo (well-renowned stargazer) have all expressed that it is the language of nature, providing understanding and evidence to everything we see around us.



But do we experience maths and physics in our everyday life? Are we remotely aware of their impact on trivial tasks? Can we become more conscious of the role they play and open ourselves up to the infinite possibility and questions they pose? Let’s find out together.


Maths


Some of you may recoil in fear at the very sound of this subject, breaking into a cold sweat and shuffling nervously in your seat. Let’s not start out under any false pretence, maths is everywhere and if you struggle with it, it can have a big impact on your direction in life. Whether you are an aspiring economist, psychologist, pilot or artist, various mathematical problems will raise their snakelike eyes to meet yours, every single day. 



Influence on other school subjects:


The best subject to convey the importance of maths and how it is present in everything we do is a subject that on the surface appears as distant as the andromeda galaxy. Literature. Which is jam(or custard)-packed full of mathematical concepts and theories. 


The art of crafting exemplary, thought-provoking poems and the ability to critique and understand what makes a poem unique and powerful is lathered in math theories like rhythms and meter. What makes a haiku different to a sonnet? The number of lines and syllables used. On a less romantic note, it can also help students preparing for assessments by enabling them to work out roughly how many pages they can read in a set amount of time, how many words per minute they can write, helping them estimate how long it can take to complete a certain piece of work.


The humanities / social sciences occasionally require students to review charts and graphs containing historical data or information on various groups of data. As an example, in geography considering how the force of the weather can erode rock formations and at what rate. Average lifespans, GDP per capita and all other statistics that help provide specific evidence to back up findings are all determined by basic mathematical terms and formulas.


Real-life application:


I won’t touch on the simplistic aspects of life that maths evidently has a clear impact on like sorting out personal finances, taxes, etc. I am more intrigued by the aspects of our daily lives that it may not be evident the impact maths is having. Because let’s be honest, that is more exciting to read and find out about!


I know I have personally sat in a Maths class and asked myself the following questions:


“How will trigonometry help me in the future?”, “How, and why should I draw a variation table?”, “What on earth is the point of working out a vector and Phythagoras’ theorem?”.



These questions are spoken externally and rehearsed internally across UK classrooms on a daily basis, as a maths tutor or a parent, it can be hard to convince students without being able to relate to everyday examples. 


  • Shopping


So firstly, let’s take a trip to the high street and have a gander through one of our local retail businesses. The automatic doors slide open for you and you pass through a security scanner composed of intricate electrical systems that could not have been designed without maths.

You browse around the products and one of them catches your eye, it is labelled with a barcode, a visible pattern holding encoded information on the specific item and manufacturer. Those lines are actually numbers! In order to scan the barcode, you require a laser scanner at the checkout, made possible through mathematical equations and finally, you pay for it using a card, cash or even your phone… mind is blown!


  • Travel


The way we traverse across the earth has changed exponentially in the last 200 years. The invention of cars, commercial aeroplanes and trains that travel on the bed of the oceans. We used to rely on a compass, protractor and sextant to correctly triangulate our position and destination. What used to be an equation conducted inside of our own minds has now been vastly improved, in no small way, by satellites and improved computer processing power allowing us to create a global positioning system (GPS)


Navigation measures the distance on the globe in degrees, longitude and latitude. Latitude is a north to the south measurement from the equator and longitude is east to the west measurement from the prime meridian. Without the math equations used to calculate these degrees, we would be unable to accurately travel to the correct destination routinely. 


  • Health


Maths contributes to all of our methodical and systematic behaviours, helping us to not only survive but to thrive. We have learned how to cohabit and use the materials at our disposal to improve the quality of our life. In the spiritual debate of nature vs nurture, maths is ever-present as it is used for basic survival skills but many of the qualities that make us individuals have been curated by mathematical theories and constants like spatial awareness, problem-solving skills and power to reason.


Brain training is just as good for the mind as it is for the body as it caters to both the physical and psychological cravings of our bodies. Keeping the mind active may have various benefits, including reducing the risk of dementia. It is sensible practice therefore to keep our mind active and one of the best ways to do that is through math calculations. 


Keeping mentally active through cognitive training can:


Increase memorising ability

Improve brain processing speed

Prevent boredom

Boost motivation

Enhance concentration


Wow, you can’t help but love that many buzzwords!


Physics


Physics encroaches on every aspect of daily life, describing the motions, forces and energy that surrounds us in ordinary experiences. Simple actions like walking, talking, driving a car and typing on a computer, physics is hard at work. We are all bound by the same laws of physics and we should not take them for granted.



Physicists use laws they have uncovered to develop new materials, machinery and technology to improve our daily lives and to help us explore more of the unknown through computers, telescopes and off the record spacecraft.

There are so many pathways in physics that it can be really difficult to know which way to go, each branch of physics is completely different. Take nuclear physics as an example; these physicists study the minutest of particles to figure out how the universe came into being and why, whereas astrologists study the objects that are so large that we cannot comprehend them, like stars, planets and celestial bodies.


Physics can help you to build problem-solving, research and analytical skills. With these skills, you can test new ideas, question properties and investigate other people’s theories, which is useful in any job avenue.


Influence on other school subjects:


Physics has a substantial impact on a variety of subjects but none more than STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). You will find physicists in every industry, from transport to politics and research labs to games technology. The list of subjects that physics supports from academia is endless. Every subject that you study has physics involved. Some of the best metaphors that you use in creative writing exams are based upon laws of physics so having a basic understanding of these concepts can help to improve your imagination and expand your vocabulary. 


If you are looking into progressing your education or career into scientific fields such as biochemistry, medicine, architecture, etc… then having a physics qualification will enhance your application and set you out against the rest. Holding a certificate in physics does not close any doors of opportunity to you because it is identified and viewed as one of the hardest topics around, showing the aptitude and determination to succeed in physics will prove to employers that you can do it in any other industry.


Real-life application:


  • Mechanical devices


The best and easiest place to see physics in action is a simple lever, the biggest and most fun of which can be found at your local playground in the form of a see-saw. A see-saw is comprised of a lever (the 2 sitting locations) and a fulcrum (the ballast in the middle). A lever is designed to magnify force, lessening the effort required to move an object at the opposite end. Another example of a lever you may come across in daily activities is scissors! Trying to cut through an object using our fingers is nigh on impossible. While you may believe that it is the blade that should take all the credit for cutting that annoying bit of tape on your latest gift, it is actually the lever-action that plays the pivotal role. If you don’t believe me, try cutting that piece of tape with a knife and get the exact same cut… I will be impressed.


  • Magnifying glasses


Magnifying equipment permeates around us in a variety of different forms and sizes, with applications varying from the most mundane to the profound. You could be feet away from an individual using a magnifying glass as a way of taking difficult to read or undiscernible text into a format large enough for consumption and then a few miles away a scientist could be making the scientific breakthrough of the century using the exact same technology looking at microscopic organisms.


A magnifying glass is a convex lens. This means it is curved outwards like the bottom of a spoon or the outside of a tent. It is the complete antithesis of concave. A lens allows rays of light to pass through it and will refract (bend) that light dependant on the shape of the lens. A convex lens causes the light rays to converge together. When this light hits our eyes it creates a “virtual image” on the retina of our eyes. The image appears larger than the actual object due to simple geometry (MATHSSSSSSS) allowing us to see previously unobservable details.


  • Transport


Acceleration, action, reaction and inertia; in short Newton’s laws of motion at work as a mechanical force to get us from site A to site B as quickly and smoothly as possible. Manipulating physics is the transport industries bread and butter. Cars and trains utilise the wheel to provide smooth, unencumbered motion. Aeroplanes go a step further adding lift into the equation, using theory obtained studying birds to create this lift through wing shape and angle, altering the airflow needed to get us up to 30,000 feet.

In short and for those of you that love a TLDR (Too long, didn’t read), maths and physics are so closely intertwined into the daily lives that we stroll obnoxiously past them, taking their presence for granted and not truly appreciating how they are making our lives better. I implore you, next time you go out of the house, to avoid putting your headphones in but to observe what you can and figure out the simplistic mathematical and physics-based systems that surround you.



If you are looking for a maths tutor to help you with more complex calculations during your studies, click here.


If you are looking for a physics tutor who can provide you with the necessary information to help you in future exams, click here.


Looking for someone that can do both? Check out our list of extraordinary qualified teachers and tutors who excel in both topics and provide you with a deeper understanding of each, here.



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James Gurnett

7th October

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