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Experimentation and Proof in Mathematics

David Epstein
Department: Department of Mathematics
Silvio Levy
Organization: The Geometry Center, University of Minnesota
Journal / Anthology

Notices of the AMS
Year: 42
Volume: 6
Page range: 670-673

The English word "prove"--as its Old French and Latin ancestors--has two basic meanings: to try or test, and to establish beyond doubt. The first meaning is largely archaic.... That these two meanings could have coexisted for so long may seem strange to us mathematicians today, accustomed as we are to thinking of "proof" as an unambiguous term. But it is in fact quite natural, because the most common way to establish something in everyday life is to examine it, test it, probe it, experiment with it.

*Arts and Humanities > History and Philosophy of Mathematics
*Mathematics > Foundations of Mathematics > Logic