Savants, neurons, and ants

Jason Padgett, author of the book Struck by Genius, appeared on CBS This Morning on April 24.  On May 5, livescience also did a piece on him and his book.  Padgett was assaulted in 2002 and suffered a severe concussion.  But, following this head injury, he acquired an extraordinary facility for seeing mathematics.  He is, […]

Wasps, bees, faces and mathematics

An article in the December issue of Scientific American gave me a new insect behavior to ponder and one that might reveal, in the insect’s biology, a distant cousin to the mathematical idea we call mapping.  It seems that there are insects that have a talent for recognizing faces. Their talent has much in common […]

The thought behind it

The most recent issue of New Scientist has an article called Thoughts: The inside story.  In it, philosopher Tim Bayne begins with a survey of all of the things we mean by the word ‘thought’ – the mental activity that accompanies perceptions, problem solving, the integration of various perceptions, the uncontrolled associative train of connected […]

Pufferfish, bowerbirds and pragmatism

One of the reasons that the nature of mathematics has been such an enigma, is that we associate it with thought, and we tend to distinguish thought from the physical world.   We do find mathematics in natural structures – some of these beautifully represented in a film you may have seen called Nature by the […]

Pigeons, rats, monkeys and real numbers

I’d like today to stay on the topic of mathematics from the cognitive science perspective, and in particular, to make available another set of interesting studies summarized by C. R. Gallistel, Rochel Gelman and Sara Cordes. The studies are described in their contribution to the book Evolution and Culture (edited by Stephen C. Levinson and […]

Mental Magnitudes

I am increasingly fascinated by the mathematics of fundamental cognitive processes – like creatures finding their way to and from significant locations, or foraging for food, or foraging with the eyes, or comprehending the duration of an event. I’m excited by the fact that there are cognitive neuroscientists that have become focused on the architecture […]

Ant arithmetic and prairie dog conversation

One of the points I wanted to make in last week’s post was that studies in animal cognition suggest the presence of mathematics in the behavior of non-human species – the ants, for example, who can be seen to pass on quantitative information to other ants. We don’t see the mathematics they may be doing […]

Riemann, angelfish and ants

I have recently spent some time sorting out the points Arkady Plotnitsky makes about the significance of Riemann’s notion of manifold (or manifoldness) in his paper which appeared in the journal Configurations in 2009.  The paper has the title Bernhard Riemann’s Conceptual Mathematics, and the Idea of Space.  It is refreshing in that it considers […]