Math and music are incredibly inter-related, as has been understood at least since Pythagoras. But they are never studied in a single academic department. Math and music are arguably more intimately bound than math and computer science. But math and music are never in the same department, while math and computer science frequently are. Hmmm....
Math and Computer Science are joined at the hip in Academia
I make no argument that this is universal. Don't need to. If you search like I did, you'll find that putting math and computer science in a single department is a common practice.
Why are Math and Computer Science so Academically Intimate?
Most people seem to think that math and computer science are pretty much the same thing. Consider this:
- Most "normal" people who try either of them don't get very far.
- The people who are way into either of them are really nerdy.
- If you're good at one of them, there's a good chance you'll do well at the other.
- They are incredibly detail-oriented. They're full of symbols and strange languages.
- What you do doesn't seem to be physical at all. What are you doing while programming or doing math? Mostly staring into space or scribbling strange symbols, it seems.
- You can write programs that do math, and math applies broadly to computing.
Meanwhile, there are other remarkably similar things that don't end up in the same department. Consider the "life sciences." They all have loads of things in common. Everything they all study starts life, develops, lives for awhile, maybe has offspring, and dies. DNA is intimately involved. Oxygen and carbon dioxide play crucial roles. But since when have you ever seen a department of botany and zoology? Like never, right? In the humanities it's just as extreme. Ever hear of a department of French and German? Academics already fight enough among themselves without that...
Academics clearly think that math and computer science aren't just similar or highly related. If so, they'd treat them the way they do languages or life sciences. A broad spectrum of academics think they're so interwoven that there are compelling reasons for studying them together. Thus a single department that has them both.
Math and Computer Science, a Marriage made in ????
It's a common practice for math and computer science to be studied together. Obviously, most people have no trouble with the concept. Of all the things to question or worry about in the world, this seems pretty low on the list.
I would like to change this. I'd like to cause trouble where there is none today -- or rather, I'd like to EXPOSE the deep-seated, far-reaching, trouble-causing consequences of the fact that everyone thinks it's quite alright that math and computer science are thought of as pretty much two halves of the same coin. In fact, I will argue that the math-computer-science-marriage is just fine for math -- but the root cause of a remarkable variety of intractable problems that plague software development.
Note that I did a quick shift there. I have no problem with math and computer science being together. They kinda belong together. My problem is that everyone thinks that you study computer science in school so that you're qualified to do software development after graduating. And that software development shops require CS degrees, and pay more for advanced degrees in CS, on the theory that if some is good, more must be better.
I will flesh this out and explain why it's the case in future posts. But I thought throwing down the gauntlet was worth doing. Or at least fun!