Trick or Truth?: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics (The Frontiers Collection)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The prize-winning essays in this
book address the fascinating but sometimes uncomfortable relationship between
physics and mathematics. Is
mathematics merely another natural science? Or is it the result of human
creativity? Does physics simply wear mathematics like a costume, or is math the
lifeblood of physical reality?
The nineteen wide-ranging, highly imaginative and often
entertaining essays are enhanced versions of the prize-winning entries to the
FQXi essay competition “Trick or Truth”, which attracted over 200 submissions.
The Foundational Questions
Institute, FQXi, catalyzes, supports, and disseminates research on questions at
the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and
innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality, but unlikely to
be supported by conventional funding sources.
discover the rules governing their movement. Unsurprisingly, these were mathematical rules. Due to the work of Newton, the mathematical formulae of Kepler were obtained as consequences of simpler and much more general laws. Hence, mathematics entered initially in physics as a way to record the observations in a precise way. Then, it was used as an ordering principle, which organizes the quantitative observations. But once they are organized, they appear as consequences of deeper laws which are
Anthony Aguirre1 , Brendan Foster2 and Zeeya Merali2 (1)Department of Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA (2)Foundational Questions Institute, Decatur, GA, USA Anthony Aguirre (Corresponding author) Email: email@example.com Brendan Foster Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Zeeya Merali Email: email@example.com The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor
the local bylaws of our little corner of it. Another popular criticism of any hypothesis which implies a multiverse is saying that it violates Occam’s razor, because it postulates an enormous, potentially infinite number of unobservable universes to explain our observable reality. But it all depends on what you try to minimize: the number of things that exist, or the number and complexity of the principles that define their existence. If you want to explain why one or only a few universes exist,
mathematical consistency, not conceptual consistency. Blurring inconsistent concepts together has arguably been the source of several fruitful advances, but that’s different from working with concepts that can’t even be expressed via mathematics in the first place. Physics without mathematics would be a surefire route to failure. Intuition Versus Objectivity Using mathematics as a consistency check may sound reasonable, but why does physics successfully use such strange and esoteric mathematics
possibility that what we now call the laws of nature and the constants of nature are accidental features of the big bang in which we happen to find ourselves, though constrained (as is the distance of the Earth from the Sun) by the requirement that they have to be in a range that allows the appearance of beings that can ask why they are what they are. The Darwinian theory of evolution is widely believed to explain the birth of order from chaos. To follow its line of thought, our universe is