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How to Free Your Inner MathematicianNotes on Mathematics and Life$
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Susan D'Agostino

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198843597

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198843597.001.0001

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Abandon perfectionism, because of the Hairy Ball Theorem

Abandon perfectionism, because of the Hairy Ball Theorem

(p.131) 22 Abandon perfectionism, because of the Hairy Ball Theorem
How to Free Your Inner Mathematician

Susan D'Agostino

Oxford University Press

“Abandon perfectionism, because of the Hairy Ball Theorem” explains the mathematics behind the Hairy Ball Theorem, including a basic introduction to topological equivalence, vectors, and continuous vector fields. The discussion is illustrated with numerous hand-drawn sketches. Readers will understand the meaning of mathematical sayings arising from the theorem, including, “you can’t comb a hairy ball,” “every cow has a cowlick,” and “there is always one place on Earth where the wind is not blowing.” Mathematics students and enthusiasts are encouraged to let the Hairy Ball Theorem serve as a reminder that perfection in mathematics and life is often an impossible goal and that it is often enough, maybe even desirable, to do one’s very best. At the chapter’s end, readers may check their understanding by working on a problem. A solution is provided.

Keywords:   Hairy Ball Theorem, topological equivalence, vector, comb, math, student

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