Mathematician Norbert Herrmann – “Mathematics has little to do with numbers”

Moderation: Katrin Heise

For years, the mathematician Norbert Herrmann has been fighting against the prejudices that seem firmly anchored in his science. (Private)

Mathematics is everywhere and in fact human sciences, says Norbert Herrmann enthusiastically. The mathematician is equally passionate about music: he even staged an opera himself and sang the tenor.

What do the parking aid in the car and the “Santa Claus House” drawn from the lines have in common? There’s a lot of math in both, says Norbert Herrmann. And you should know that after all, the mathematician took care of the automatic parking aid and the drawing game for a long time.

When it comes to parking, Herrmann has developed his own formula, “which can be used for all vehicles. Mathematicians always do something for everyone. Every vehicle should have the chance to find its best path,” explains the scientist, who works at Leibniz. The University of Hanover has taught applied mathematics for more than three decades.

Find the best way with graph theory

And also in the “House of Nicolas” you can find a lot of his area of ​​expertise. How we manage to draw eight lines, and not a double, without picking up the pen, can be explained with graph theory, explains Norbert Herrmann.

“One line has two end points. Two lines have four end points. So six lines have twelve end points. Each count has an even number of end points. Knowing that, the rest is trivial. “

It’s a gimmick, but with graph theory you can also “tell the letter carrier every morning where to drive to get the optimal route. It works with the help of graph theory.”

“Mathematics can be learned”

The 78-year-old is still excited about his subject, you can’t help but hear him. Contrary to what is often claimed, you can learn mathematics, you just need to explain it well. In this context, Herrmann recalls a phrase from Albert Einstein: “If I can’t explain my problem to a five-year-old, then I didn’t understand it.

For years, the mathematician has been fighting against the prejudices which seem to be firmly anchored in his science. He has written many books, including the one that has been published several times: “Mathematics is everywhere”. Herrmann lectures and is Math Ambassador for the Rechnen Foundation.

Develop what others have to calculate

Numbers and arithmetic would in fact be rarely covered in his subject. Of the 60 main areas of mathematics, only one deals with it. “Otherwise, math has nothing to do with numbers. “Math users, engineers, physicists, natural scientists, health professionals need to calculate. They all need math. They need to calculate. We develop what they need to calculate.”

What particularly disturbs Norbert Herrmann are the statements about mathematics and women. According to the scientist, they are also persistent. Herrmann remembers a colleague.

“He claimed women don’t have brains for math. He really said that. How can you be so stupid? I don’t understand. And that’s not true. I’ve taught a lot of people. students, especially teachers. women than men. And the women were good, they got great degrees. “

“Mathematics is very creative”

Although he had a “bad teacher”, Norbert Herrmann had a passion for mathematics from an early age. But music is also important to him, his father was a cantor.

Little Norbert joined the choir very early on, then sang in the additional choir of the Hanover Opera House for many years. In his mathematics institute, the employees even staged an entire opera house.

For Herrmann, music and mathematics also have a lot in common.

“The math is very creative, and so is the music. I think it goes in the same direction. The math is not set in stone. And when I sing, I have to listen three tones in advance. So I have to mentally work the whole thing. time. And it works, I think, in the same direction. “


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