put in a particularly evocative form by the physicist Eugene Wigner as the title of. a lecture in in New York: “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics. On ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences’. Sorin Bangu. Abstract I present a reconstruction of Eugene Wigner’s argument for . Maxwell, Helmholtz, and the Unreasonable Effectiveness of the Method of Physical Bokulich – – Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

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In Thomson’s theory, knots such as the ones in figure 1a the unknotfigure 1b the trefoil knot and figure 1c the wignee eight knot could, in principle at least, model atoms of increasing complexity, such as the hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms, respectively. Whether humans checking the results of humans mathematids be considered an objective basis for observation of the known to humans universe is an interesting question, one followed up in both cosmology and the philosophy of mathematics.

Eugene Wigner, The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences – PhilPapers

Mathematics, Matter and Method: There are actually two facets to the “unreasonable effectiveness,” one that I will call active and another that I dub passive. Furthermore, the leading string theorist Ed Witten demonstrated that the Jones polynomial affords new insights in one of effetciveness most fundamental areas of research eugeene modern physics, known as quantum field theory.

Knots, and especially maritime knots, enjoy a long history of legends and fanciful names such as “Englishman’s tie,” “hangman’s knot,” and “cat’s paw”. There was mathematics here! The active facet refers to the fact that when scientists attempt to light their way through the labyrinth of natural phenomena, they use mathematics as unreasonale torch. Consequently, while it was certainly very useful, the Alexander polynomial was still not perfect for classifying knots.

Wigner begins his paper with the belief, common among those familiar with mathematics, that mathematical concepts have applicability far beyond the context in which they were originally developed. Of course the two pieces would immediately slow down to their appropriate speeds. I will rather present some less familiar aspects of the problem itself. Two major breakthroughs in knot theory occurred in and in First, it was the active effectiveness of mathematics that came into play.

Driven only by their curiosity, they continued to explore the properties of knots for many eufene. At first blush, you may think that the minimum number of crossings in a knot could serve as such an invariant. In particular, string wlgner Hirosi Ooguri and Cumrun Vafa discovered that the number of complex topological structures that are formed when many strings interact is related to the Jones polynomial.


Cambridge Journal of Economics. We should stop acting as if our goal is mathematicx author extremely elegant theories, and instead embrace complexity and make wifner of the best ally we have: In other words, physicists and mathematicians thought that knots were viable models for atoms, and consequently they enthusiastically engaged in the mathematical study of knots.

Colyvan, Mark Spring Originally used to model freely falling bodies on the surface of the earth, this law was extended on the basis of what Wigner terms “very scanty observations” to describe the motion of the planets, where it “has proved accurate beyond all reasonable expectations”.

The earliest lifeforms must have contained the seeds of the human ability to create and follow long chains of close reasoning. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. There is only one thing which is more unreasonable than the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in physics, and this is the unreasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics in biology.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will unreasinable valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though evfectiveness also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning. A different response, advocated by physicist Max Tegmarkis that physics is so successfully described by mathematics because the physical world is completely mathematicalisomorphic to a mathematical structure, and that we are simply uncovering this bit by bit.

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful unteasonable which we neither understand nor deserve.

Unreasonable effectiveness |

Recall that Thomson started to study knots because he was searching for a theory of atoms, then considered to be the most basic constituents of matter. It follows the lives and thoughts of some of the greatest mathematicians in history, and attempts to explain the effectoveness effectiveness” of mathematics.

His interests span a broad range of topics in astrophysics, from cosmology to the emergence of intelligent life. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

The Jones polynomial distinguishes, for instance, even between knots and their mirror images figure 3for which the Alexander polynomials were identical. In a group of physicists at Harvard University determined the magnetic moment of the electron which measures how strongly the electron interacts with a magnetic field to a precision of eight parts in a trillion. Hamming gives four examples of nontrivial physical phenomena he believes arose from the mathematical tools employed and not from the intrinsic properties of physical reality.


Image created by Ann Feild. The belief that science is experimentally grounded is only partially true. Computer algebra Computational number theory Combinatorics Graph theory Discrete geometry.

The field was undergoing a revolution and was rapidly acquiring the depth and power previously associated exclusively with the physical sciences. The passive effectiveness, on the other hand, refers to cases in which abstract mathematical theories had been mathematicd with absolutely no applications in mind, only to turn out decades, or sometimes centuries later, to be powerfully predictive physical models.

In the Greek legend of the Gordian knot Alexander the Great used his sword to slice through a knot that had defied all previous attempts to untie it.

He then invokes the fundamental law of gravitation as an example. Physicists needed a model for the atom, and when knots appeared to provide the appropriate tool, a mathematical theory of knots took off. Eygene the past decade, Dr Livio’s research focused on supernova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the nature of the dark energy that pushes the universe to accelerate, and on extrasolar planets.

Unreasonable effectiveness

This page was last edited on 17 Novemberat Approximation theory Numerical analysis Differential equations Dynamical systems Control theory Variational calculus. George Allen and Unwin. By a remarkably circular twist of history, knots are now found to provide answers in string theory, our present-day best effort to understand the constituents of matter!

Mario Livio’s book Is God a Mathematician? An Outline of Philosophy. The New Zealander-American mathematician Vaughan Jones detected an unexpected relation between knots and another abstract branch of mathematics known as von Neumann algebras. For knots to be truly useful, however, mathematicians searched for some precise way of proving that what appeared to be different knots such as the trefoil knot and the figure eight knot were really different—they couldn’t be transformed one into the other by some simple manipulation.