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Balancing the universe’s books by dumping math

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From Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong

I think what Moore has to say is quite fascinating, he’s giving a wonderful survey of where this intellectual subject is, how it has gotten there, and where it might be going. I’m very much in sympathy with his historical discussion of how math and physics have evolved, at times closely linked, at others finding themselves far apart. He’s concerned about an issue that I’ve commented on elsewhere, the fact that physics and math seem to be growing apart again, with no mathematicians speaking at the conference, instead attending their own conference (“Strings-Math 2014?). Physics departments increasingly want nothing to do with mathematics, which is a shame.

Dumping math may be highly convenient if they are fronting ideas that don’t make sense.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).

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5 Replies to “Balancing the universe’s books by dumping math

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video
    https://vimeo.com/92387853

    Alan Turing and Kurt Godel – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video
    https://vimeo.com/92387854

    “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind or the human mind is more than a machine.”
    – Kurt Gödel

    The Limits Of Reason – Gregory Chaitin – 2006
    Excerpt: an infinite number of true mathematical theorems exist that cannot be proved from any finite system of axioms.,,,
    http://www.umcs.maine.edu/~chaitin/sciamer3.pdf

    Now I wouldn’t know my way around higher mathematics if my life depended on it, but I’ve heard said that mathematicians depend on a ‘sense of beauty’ so as to intuitively know whether an equation may be truthful or not.

    “It appears that the Creator shares the mathematicians’ sense of beauty.”
    – Alexander Vilenkin
    http://rfforum.websitetoolbox.com/post?id=3754268

    In fact, Paul Dirac, using such a ‘sense of beauty’ in mathematics, made a successful mathematical prediction for the existence of the ‘anti-election’.

    Graham Farmelo on Paul Dirac and Mathematical Beauty – video (28:12 minute mark – prediction of the ‘anti-electron’)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfYon2WdR40

    It seems readily apparent that Peter Higgs must have used the same method (i.e. sense of beauty) for his mathematical prediction of the Higgs Boson, decades before it was discovered,

    How the hunt for the Higgs boson began – Nov. 2010
    Excerpt: Higgs collected his papers and, step by step, took the audience through his theory. Dyson listened intently. He thought Higgs’s work was beautiful.
    http://io9.com/5682875/how-the.....oson-began

    Of related note: Dr. Craig uses the prediction of the Higg’s boson as a philosophical proof for Theism.

    Mathematics and Physics – A Happy Coincidence? – Dr. Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/9826382/

    1. If God did not exist the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.
    2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest to this ‘sense of mathematical beauty’ guiding mathematical discovery, is the discovery of the Amplituhedron was guided by such a ‘sense of beauty’:

    The Amplituhedron (21:12 minute mark) – Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=By27M9ommJc#t=1272

    But where this ‘sense of beauty’ in mathematics seems to break down is with string theory (and m-theory):

    The part of the book (‘The Trouble With Physics’) I found most interesting was the part which tells how the string theorists were scammed by Nature (or Mathematics). Of course, Smolin doesn’t put it exactly like this, but imagine the following conversation.———
    String theorists: We’ve got the Standard Model, and it works great, but it doesn’t include gravity, and it doesn’t explain lots of other stuff, like why all the elementary particles have the masses they do. We need a new, broader theory.
    Nature: Here’s a great new theory I can sell you. It combines quantum field theory and gravity, and there’s only one adjustable parameter in it, so all you have to do is find the right value of that parameter, and the Standard Model will pop right out.
    String theorists: We’ll take it.
    String theorists (some time later): Wait a minute, Nature, our new theory won’t fit into our driveway. String theory has ten dimensions, and our driveway only has four.
    Nature: I can sell you a Calabi-Yau manifold. These are really neat gadgets, and they’ll fold up string theory into four dimensions, no problem.
    String theorists: We’ll take one of those as well, please.
    Nature: Happy to help.
    String theorists (some time later): Wait a minute, Nature, there’s too many different ways to fold our Calabi-Yao manifold up. And it keeps trying to come unfolded. And string theory is only compatible with a negative cosmological constant, and we own a positive one.
    Nature: No problem. Just let me tie this Calabi-Yao manifold up with some strings and branes, and maybe a little duct tape, and you’ll be all set.
    String theorists: But our beautiful new theory is so ugly now!
    Nature: Ah! But the Anthropic Principle says that all the best theories are ugly.
    String theorists: It does?
    Nature: It does. And once you make it the fashion to be ugly, you’ll ensure that other theories will never beat you in beauty contests.
    String theorists: Hooray! Hooray! Look at our beautiful new theory.
    ———- Okay, I’ve taken a few liberties here. But according to Smolin’s book, string theory did start out looking like a very promising theory. And, like a scam, as it looks less and less promising, it’s hard to resist the temptation to throw good money (or research) after bad in the hope of getting something back for your effort.
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2H7GVX4BUQQ68/

    A Capella Science – Bohemian Gravity! – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rjbtsX7twc

    Of course since the ‘sense of beauty’ is ultimately a subjective judgment for each person, (i.e. in the eye of the beholder), then this ‘sense of beauty’ is far from being a rigid guide as to making successful mathematical predictions which will lead to new discoveries. None-the-less, it is very interesting to learn that the ‘sense of beauty’ would be so successful in helping make accurate mathematical predictions for what will be discovered.

    Of related interest:

    Beauty,,, can be appreciated only by the mind. This would be impossible, if this `idea’ of beauty were not found in the mind in a more perfect form.
    http://www.quodlibet.net/artic.....etic.shtml

    Beauty Evades the Clutches of Materialism – March 27, 2013
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....70321.html

    Though the preceding article was/is somewhat technical, it was almost comical to read how every approach, in which the materialists tried to reduce the subjective sense of beauty to a mere material mechanism, was thwarted.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    I believe it would be difficult to impossible, to exaggerate the egregious place of beauty in relation to heaven and its salient qualities. Almost indistinguishable from love, despite having less proximate, practical applications.

    Atheism/nihilism, on the other hand….

  5. 5
    groovamos says:

    I don’t get where “news” gets that physicists are “dumping” math. Could be because news is perhaps untrained in either area. Its more like physicists are unknowingly dumping science – in their frenzied quest to uncover a natural source for nature. They are making huge philosophical blunders by trying to take science where it can’t go – in my view.

    Physicists have always had little cutesy things to say about mathematicians and vice versa and so there has been a sort of professional rivalry over this. If you have read multiple biographies of physicists you would maybe have sensed it. Even Einstein had his satirical fun over Minkowsy and mathematicians when genius #2 extended general relativity. But Einstein was also indebted to them for tools like tensor calculus and non-Euclidean geometries. The idea of “dumping math” could be an intended metaphor I guess but it it doesn’t seem a good one at all.

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