Wednesday, April 15, 2015

PBS Nova: "The Great Math Mystery"


PBS Nova aired “The Great Math Mystery” tonight, April 15, 2015, primary link here. Is mathematics an invention of humans, or is it the language of the Universe?

 I think it is the latter.  Even God (or Allah or Jehovah) can’t change mathematics.  He (or She) can only decide on the constants of physics so that a universe works and life with free will is possible.  But the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus will always work.

And, as I have said before, life (with biological reproduction) is nature’s remedy for entropy.
The show demonstrated how Galileo and then Newton designed experiments that showed how gravity works.  And on the Moon, astronauts dropped a feather in competition with lead shot to show, in an airless environment, that Galileo had been right.
Like in a Physics 101 lab, experiments showed how the acceleration of gravity works (meaning distance fallen varies with the square of time).  Gravitational force is proportional to each mass and inversely proportional to the square of distance. I do remember conversations in grad school in the 60s about all that "useless math", like algebraic topology. 
 
Particularly interesting was a 20-year-old Marconi's experiment, based on Maxwell's equations, that laid the foundation for today's wireless Internet.
 
But mathematics doesn’t describe really intricate systems as well, like weather out into the future, or economics, or biology – or free will – or even “Grace”.  

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