A Science Talk in Kigali

The Mysteries of Mathematics

In the last weeks of January, the founder of InkStain, a local creative agency, took a step forward with his passion for science. He decided he was going to unleash his plans to nurture a community of science enthusiasts; and so he sent an e-mail to a select list of friends and colleagues.

“My name is Dolph Banza, an artist by profession and science enthusiast by passion,” he wrote in the e-mail. “For the last two years or so, I have been thinking of a possibility to create a science community, where we share enlightening resources such as books, documentaries or podcasts.”

The inaugural science talk took place last Sunday, 4 February at InkStain in Kacyiru, bringing together twenty young men and women from different fields. There was an experiential marketer, a photographer, a software engineer, a restaurateur, illustrators, a botanist turned tech-entrepreneur, a project manager, a fitness trainer, and a student psychologist, to describe a few. We kicked off with a fifty-minute documentary titled “Mathematics. The mother of all?” — which led us to an engaging discussion on patterns, the number sequence (Fibonacci), pi, gravity and, above all, what math represents and why it’s important.

Of course, Dolph had made it clear that “we are not going back to school with detailed formulas and tests.” He shaped the discussions to nurture an exchange of philosophical or critical thoughts about the relationship among the topics with nature and life in general.

One of the lines in the documentary says, “If you pose a question correctly, math will give you an answer.” It’s impossible to disagree. And, by reflecting on these topics and the conversation we had at the gathering, it reminded me of our general limitations when it comes to precision. Whether you’re a writer, an architect, a cook, a plumber, the faculty to process mathematical information is within us. It’s just up to us to understand that precision is real and there is a reason why some people attend a certain level of perfection by creating tools that actually work.

Is math real? Do we create it or it’s simply out there? Either way, it’s a good time to acquire a little bit more of scientific literacy – and make sense of how the physical (and spiritual?) world works.

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