Growth and Shape
Between growth and continuity.
D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860–1948)
In 1959, the world population was three billion people. Today, it is more than seven billion, which means that it has grown by four billion in about two generations. Two incompatible principles make the resulting global situation more serious: growth as an interest of business and continuity as a natural precondition of life. Reconciling our modern civilisation with the physical limitations of Earth is a socio-political challenge that must be overcome.
Mathematics can make a major contribution to understanding the underlying growth processes – and it can do so in every respect. For mathematics is behind many processes that we encounter every day: it can explain how big an apple will grow, why pumpkins have to lie on the ground – and why whales live in the water.
We will learn what all this has to do with mathematics. For this purpose, we turn to the two prevalent types of growth.