Numerical analysis is the study of algorithms that use numerical approximation for the problems of mathematical analysis. Numerical analysis naturally finds application in all fields of engineering and the physical sciences, but in the 21st century also the life sciences, social sciences, medicine, business and even the arts have adopted elements of scientific computations. The growth in computing power has revolutionized the use of realistic mathematical models in science and engineering and subtle numerical analysis is required to implement these detailed models of the world. For example, ordinary differential equations appear in celestial mechanics (predicting the motions of planets, stars and galaxies); numerical linear algebra is important for data analysis; stochastic differential equations and Markov chains are essential in simulating living cells for medicine and biology.
Before the advent of modern computers, numerical methods often depended on hand interpolation formulas applied to data from large printed tables. Since the mid 20th century, computers calculate the required functions instead, but many of the same formulas nevertheless continue to be used as part of the software algorithms.