Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics

Physicist Sir James Jeans, contemplating the fact that the universe seems so astonishingly conformable to mathematics, once remarked that God must be a mathematician. It would indeed be a breathtaking coincidence had the mathematical architecture of the cosmos just happened to be the way it is by sheer serendipity.

Here's a lovely video that illustrates just one example of how mathematics seems to lie at the fundament of the universe. The video describes how the geometry of nature so often exhibits what's called the Fibonacci sequence:
In 1959, the physicist and mathematician Eugene Wigner described the fact that mathematical equations describe every aspect of the universe as "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics."

Mathphobic students may wince at a statement like this, but it gets worse.

Physicist Max Tegmark has more recently claimed that the universe is not only described by mathematics, but is, in fact, mathematics itself.

To suggest that everything ultimately reduces to a mathematical expression is another way of saying that the universe is information. But if so, information doesn't just hang in mid-air, as it were. Behind the information there must be a mind in which the information resides or from which it arises. In either case, so far from the materialist belief that matter gives rise to everything else, it seems more likely that matter is itself a physical expression of information and that the information expressed by the cosmos is itself the product of mind.

In other words, it just keeps getting harder and harder to agree with the materialists that matter is the fundamental substance that makes up all reality. Materialism just seems so 19th century.