[lit-ideas] Re: math question

  • From: Ed Farrell <ewf@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 11:37:27 -0700

Title: Re: [lit-ideas] Re: math question
If you think of mathematics as an invented "thing," then surely it is more than a little mysterious.

Let's say we've "invent" the number system.  This seems reasonable because the system cannot be seen or touched except by the mind.  Beyond simple counting, it can't be communicated except through a more or less abstruse symbolic language that is clearly invented. But we soon find that this system we've invented has properties we didn't invent or even necessarily intend--primes, Fibonacci numbers, logarithms, etc. These properties we "find" through observation, like we would find new planets or insect species. Some of these properties seem interesting enough in themselves.  But some correspond the the natural world in ways that are actually predictive, the way a Fibonacci sequence, for instance, can describe the branching of trees or the equiangular logarithmic spiral describes the structure of certain mollusc shells and spiral galaxies.  If this sort of predictive ability is an unintended consequence of a human invention--that's weird and inscrutable.

It seems a little less weird if you think of mathematics as a human faculty more along the lines of language.  But maybe this is just because inscrutability seems less inscrutable when it has company.

Ed Farrell
Livermore, California 

Monday, April 9, 2012, 9:01:50 AM, you wrote:

I have to agree with Adriano... there is nothing mysterious, or even explainable about mathematics. It just IS! You can tell me WHY 2+2=4 REALLY. Except to describe the fact that it does. 

just my 1+1 cents.


On Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 2:15 AM, Adriano Palma <
Palma@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
the sequence has nothing surprising (take a look at terry tao's work if you like surprises)

? נכון 
>>> Julie Krueger <
juliereneb@xxxxxxxxx> 09/04/2012 01:19 AM >>>

So from all this I take it that no one can, in fact, explain the why of the math sequence?

Julie Krueger

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