Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I read the first chapter on a book about category theory Conceptual Mathematics:A first introduction to categories.In the preface the authors say: It has been the good fortune of the authors to live in these interesting times, and to see how the fundamental insight of categories has led to clearer understanding, thereby better organizing, and sometimes directing, the growth of mathematical knowledge and its applications.

The introduction was about how the flight of a bird is a function from time to space.It was a very neat explanation.Is category theory about stuff similar to this ?

So my question is: Will learning category theory lead to a better and clearer understanding to mathematics and are there any prerequisites to learning category theory ?

share|improve this question
1  
I wouldn't say there are prerequisites to start learning the basics, but there are many, many interesting examples that would require some background in algebra, topology, geometry, logic, etc. –  José Siqueira Apr 29 at 22:57
    
That answered just part of the question. –  Vladimir Petrov Apr 29 at 23:04
5  
It's kind of a chicken and the egg problem; category theory is helpful, but unless you have an idea how and where, it may be difficult to comprehend and appreciate. –  Marcin Łoś Apr 29 at 23:05
    
What do you mean by how and where ? –  Vladimir Petrov Apr 29 at 23:14
    
@VladimirPetrov Note that you can notify users by putting an @ and typing in their username. –  Sanath Devalapurkar Apr 29 at 23:16
show 4 more comments

1 Answer 1

A physicist, a biologist, and a chemist are all trying to study a particular differential equation. Each of these differential equations are mathematically identical but full of specialized constants and terms related to each field. The physicist has an equation about mechanical stress and the biologist has an equation about the movement of cells. Each of the three scratch their heads: how can one solve such a difficult equation with dozens of components and factors?

They go to the mathematics dept. to speak to somebody who works on differential equations. When the mathematician sees these equations she is considerably less frightened. Because she does not know about cells or metabolic rates or chemical reactions, she just sees an equation full of arbitrary constants, and is not confused by the unnecessary information about what those constants mean. She recognizes all three problems as a certain sort of differential equation that she has studied in the past, and solves them quickly using the general theory she has developed.

In this analogy, physics, chemistry, and biology are different branches of math. Sometimes these fields have specific problems phrased in different languages which, on some intrinsic level, are logically identical. In certain situations this extra information only confuses us and is not necessary for solving the problem. When we show this problem to category theory, it does not see the specialized details but only the inherent underlying problem, and we can then apply the broad framework of category theory to tackle all these issues at once.

share|improve this answer
5  
May I quote "physics, chemistry, and biology are different branches of math." without context? :-] –  Martin Brandenburg Apr 30 at 6:17
3  
Only if you attribute it to Gauss. –  Isaac Solomon Apr 30 at 16:46
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.