The conceptual plasticity of ancient Babylonian astronomers

A recent discovery in the history of science and mathematics has prompted a number of articles, links to which are provided at the end of this text. Astrophysicist and science historian Mathieu Ossendrijver, of Humboldt University in Berlin, made the observation that ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph. […]

Testable thoughts?

Quanta magazine has a piece on a recent conference in Munich where scientists and philosophers discussed the history and future of scientific inquiry. The meeting seems to have been mostly motivated by two things. The first of these is found in the diminishing prospects for physics experiments – energy levels that can’t be reached by […]

“…an anchor in the cosmic swirl.”

Looking through some blog sites that I once frequented (but have recently neglected) I saw that John Horgan’s Cross Check had a piece on George Johnson’s book Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order. This quickly caught my attention because Horgan and Johnson figured prominently in my mind in the late […]

Poe’s cosmology

A post from John Horgan with the title Did Edgar Allan Poe Foresee Modern Physics and Cosmology? quickly got my attention. Horgan writes in response to an essay by Marilynne Robinson in the February 5 New York Review of Books where Poe’s book-length prose poem Eureka was brought to his attention. Eureka was written by […]

Shakespeare, art, religion and mathematics

I recently considered the role that mathematics plays in bringing meaning, or perhaps even story, to our experience. Mathematics is often used to reveal the structure that can be found in large sets of data, or in any number of physical things that change over time,  or in the properties of the abstractions themselves.  Mathematics, […]

Gravitational waves, cathedrals and mathematics

In their March 22 issue, New Scientist reported on the recent detection of gravitational waves that are predicted by the inflationary theory in physics.  This observation could help reveal details of what the cosmos was like “in the first slivers of a second” following the big bang.  It supports the theory that implies the existence […]

Ramanujan Visions

I have always been intrigued by the extraordinary insights of the self-taught mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.  He worked in almost complete isolation from the mathematical community, and independently rediscovered many existing results while also making his own unique contributions.   He didn’t even share notation with the rest of the community, somehow finding his way without being […]

Lincoln, Euclid and vision

Having heard the clip from Spielberg’s latest film, Lincoln, where Lincoln describes Euclid’s first common notion, I tried to investigate the extent to which the connection between Lincoln and mathematics has been pursued, and I was disappointed.   It’s difficult for anyone to speak about mathematics without sifting out the structure, reason and proof that characterizes […]