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Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, pattern, structure, and change. Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered.


Title page of Sir Henry Billingsley's first English version of Euclid's Elements, 1570 (560x900).jpg
The frontispiece of Sir Henry Billingsley's first English version of Euclid's Elements, 1570
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Euclid's Elements (Greek: Στοιχεῖα) is a mathematical and geometric treatise, consisting of 13 books, written by the Hellenistic mathematician Euclid in Egypt during the early 3rd century BC. It comprises a collection of definitions, postulates (axioms), propositions (theorems) and proofs thereof. Euclid's books are in the fields of Euclidean geometry, as well as the ancient Greek version of number theory. The Elements is one of the oldest extant axiomatic deductive treatments of geometry, and has proven instrumental in the development of logic and modern science.

It is considered one of the most successful textbooks ever written: the Elements was one of the very first books to go to press, and is second only to the Bible in number of editions published (well over 1000). For centuries, when the quadrivium was included in the curriculum of all university students, knowledge of at least part of Euclid's Elements was required of all students. Not until the 20th century did it cease to be considered something all educated people had read. It is still (though rarely) used as a basic introduction to geometry today.

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truncated icosahedron with black pentagonal faces and white hexagonal faces, beside a similar-looking 1970s soccer ball

Here a polyhedron called a truncated icosahedron (left) is compared to the classic Adidas Telstar–style football (or soccer ball). The familiar 32-panel ball design, consisting of 12 black pentagonal and 20 white hexagonal panels, was first introduced by the Danish manufacturer Select Sport, based loosely on the geodesic dome designs of Buckminster Fuller; it was popularized by the selection of the Adidas Telstar as the official match ball of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. The polyhedron is also the shape of the Buckminsterfullerene (or "Buckyball") carbon molecule initially predicted theoretically in the late 1960s and first generated in the laboratory in 1985. Like all polyhedra, the vertices (corner points), edges (lines between these points), and faces (flat surfaces bounded by the lines) of this solid obey the Euler characteristic, VE + F = 2 (here, 60 − 90 + 32 = 2). The icosahedron from which this solid is obtained by truncating (or "cutting off") each vertex (replacing each by a pentagonal face), has 12 vertices, 30 edges, and 20 faces; it is one of the five regular solids, or Platonic solids—named after Plato, whose school of philosophy in ancient Greece held that the classical elements (earth, water, air, fire, and a fifth element called aether) were associated with these regular solids. The fifth element was known in Latin as the "quintessence", a hypothesized uncorruptible material (in contrast to the other four terrestrial elements) filling the heavens and responsible for celestial phenomena. That such idealized mathematical shapes as polyhedra actually occur in nature (e.g., in crystals and other molecular structures) was discovered by naturalists and physicists in the 19th and 20th centuries, largely independently of the ancient philosophies.

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