Is mathematics an effective way to describe the world?
2013-09-04 0:00

From: Deskarati



Mathematics has been called the language of the universe. Scientists and engineers often speak of the elegance of mathematics when describing physical reality, citing examples such as π, E=mc2, and even something as simple as using abstract integers to count real-world objects. Yet while these examples demonstrate how useful math can be for us, does it mean that the physical world naturally follows the rules of mathematics as its “mother tongue,” and that this mathematics has its own existence that is out there waiting to be discovered? This point of view on the nature of the relationship between mathematics and the physical world is called Platonism, but not everyone agrees with it.

Derek Abbott, Professor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at The University of Adelaide in Australia, has written a perspective piece to be published in the Proceedings of the IEEE in which he argues that mathematical Platonism is an inaccurate view of reality. Instead, he argues for the opposing viewpoint, the non-Platonist notion that mathematics is a product of the human imagination that we tailor to describe reality.

This argument is not new. In fact, Abbott estimates (through his own experiences, in an admittedly non-scientific survey) that while 80% of mathematicians lean toward a Platonist view, engineers by and large are non-Platonist. Physicists tend to be “closeted non-Platonists,” he says, meaning they often appear Platonist in public. But when pressed in private, he says he can “often extract a non-Platonist confession.”

So if mathematicians, engineers, and physicists can all manage to perform their work despite differences in opinion on this philosophical subject, why does the true nature of mathematics in its relation to the physical world really matter? The reason, Abbott says, is that because when you recognize that math is just a mental construct—just an approximation of reality that has its frailties and limitations and that will break down at some point because perfect mathematical forms do not exist in the physical universe—then you can see how ineffective math is.

And that is Abbott’s main point (and most controversial one): that mathematics is not exceptionally good at describing reality, and definitely not the “miracle” that some scientists have marveled at.

[...]

Read the full article at: deskarati.com




Related Articles
The Science and Math of Origami
Mary, Queen of Maths, and Chaos Theory
Researchers Try to Improve Math Skills With Electrical Zaps to the Brain
Sacred Geometry & Vedic Mathematics
Maths overtakes the speed of light
College Dropout Becomes Mathematical Genius After Severe Beating
Beauty of Mathematics
Vortex Based Mathematics
Uncoiling the spiral: Maths and hallucinations


Latest News from our Front Page

An Occupied Country
2016-02-06 5:42
When people refer to occupation governments or occupied countries, the first thought is often of military occupation—the garrisoning of foreign troops in one’s cities and civil administration by their military executives. The other vision is the trope of a cabal of Haredim sitting in a darkly-lit boardroom with a map of the world on the wall, a dated reading of ...
Immortal Symbols 1941
2016-02-06 2:07
Youtube description: Dutch film "Eeuwig Leevende Tekens" by Hamer - "Volksche Werkgemeenschap" (Folkish Study Group) - ancestral heritage, solar wheel, sun cross, tree of life, etc. Subs by Otharus - http://fryskednis.blogspot.com Source: youtube.com
Ex-German media boss admits on live radio the national news agenda is govt controlled
2016-02-06 1:32
f you really want a lesson in how the Western popular press works, this is it. Without question, Germany is the leading power in Europe. ZDF is its state broadcaster and most popular channel. Together with sister network ARD; German's are obliged to pay €17.98 per month to fund it. This week, during a radio event in Berlin, the retired head of ZDF ...
British teenager is gang raped by 'Moroccan' men after being dragged into a car in Spain
2016-02-06 1:09
A British teenager claims to have been gang-raped in a Spanish resort after being dragged into a car by a group of Moroccan men, it was reported today. The 18-year-old claimed she was attacked while walking home from work late at night in Sabinillas, near Marbella. Police are said to be investigating a group of Moroccan men in the area. A British teenager ...
8 Ways Racially Diverse Schools Hurt White Kids
2016-02-06 1:02
Description from YouTube: I argue against Mother Jones Propaganda Link to the original Mother Jones Article: 3 Ways White Kids Benefit Most From Racially Diverse Schools Links to all the articles and other citations mentioned in my video can be found here: docdro.id/6CpKvgA Source: youtube.com
More News »