I read about the sad passing of Maryam Mirzakhani in July, and the extraordinary trajectory of her career in mathematics. But I did not know much about what she was actually doing. A recent post in Quanta Magazine, with the title: Why Mathematicians Like to Classify Things, caught my attention because the title suggested that […]

Self-organizing, art, and mathematical mutants

Deciphering the principles of self-organizing systems is often at the heart of new ideas in biology, including neurobiology. A complex, self-organizing system contains a large

number of elements that have predictable, local interactions with each other, but these local interactions create global properties that cannot be predicted from even the most well-understood local events. This […]

Mathematical behavior without a brain?

I have made the argument on more than one occasion that a refreshed look at mathematics may help illuminate the relationship between our experience of the physical and our experience of the thoughtful. Mathematics is a discipline characterized by complex relations among abstract things but, as has been explored from many directions, the action of […]

The plasticity of grids, in our heads and otherwise

Familiar mathematical structure is found in the neural activity that governs how the body orients itself and navigates its environment. Grid cells are neurons, found in areas neighboring the hippocampus, whose individual firings line up in a coordinate-like pattern according to an animal’s movement across the full extent of its environment. Their grid pattern acts […]

The Mind of Arithmetic

I like finding what I believe are productive generalizations, or some sameness across apparently diverse events.  Often the subject of Mathematics Rising are things like the observation that we seem to search for words in patterns that resemble the trajectories of a rat foraging for food, or the possibility that natural language can be described […]

Where does the mind begin?

The slow and steady march toward a more and more precise definition of what we mean by information inevitably begins with Claude Shannon. In 1948 Shannon published The Mathematical Theory of Communication in Bell Labs’ technical journal. Shannon found that transmitted messages could be encoded with just two bursts of voltage – an on burst […]

Number, insight, and the Riemann Hypothesis

The Riemann Hypothesis came to my attention again recently. More specifically I read a bit about the possibility that quantum mechanical measurements may provide a proof of a centuries-old hypothesis and one of mathematics’ most famous enigmas.

Within mathematics itself, without any reference to its physical meaning, the Riemann Hypothesis highlights the kind of […]

The geometry of everything

The idea that geometry in Gothic architecture was used to structure ideas, rather than the edifice itself, has come up before here at Mathematics Rising. But I would like to focus a bit more on this today because it illustrates something about mathematics, and mathematics’ potential, that the modern proliferation of information may be obscuring. […]

The shape of things


Both Quanta Magazine and New Scientist reported on some renewed interest in an old idea.  It was an approach to particle physics, proposed by theoretical physicist Geoffrey Chew in the 1960s, that ignored questions about which particles were most elementary and put a major portion of the weight of discovery on mathematics. […]

Life in the inanimate

Not too long ago I wrote about entropy, and what has come to be known as Maxwell’s demon – a hypothetical creature, invented in 1871 by James Clark Maxwell.  The creature was the product of a thought experiment meant to explore the possibility of violating the second law of thermodynamics using information to impede entropy […]