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 […]

Quantum Mechanical Words and Mathematical Organisms

My post appeared on the Scientific American Guest Blog this morning.  Here’s the link:

Quantum Mechanical Words and Mathematical Organisms

Lines on ochre and the roots of creativity

A nice article, focused on the origins of creativity, appears in the March 13 issue of Scientific American. Author, Heather Pringle, surveys research that seems to indicate that the human talent for innovation actually emerged over hundreds of thousands of years ago, before homo sapiens left Africa.  This is contrary to the view held previously […]

Chaitin, creativity, biology and mathematics

I was looking today, once again, at Gregory Chaitin’s most recent work which is described in his book Proving Darwin.  I realized that much of what has been written about this work (even what I have written) doesn’t give adequate attention to the crucial shifts in perspective that metabiology proposes. Chaitin says concisely:

According to […]

Life’s music, movement, language and mathematics

Things happen in nature.  Cells socialize and build structure, organisms grow, and move, and interact, and then more things grow – like music, language, and mathematics. Generally, talk about evolution is very pragmatic.  Cell organization, the shaping of roots, leaves, nourishment mechanisms, reproductive drives, are all usually understood as fairly specific purposeful processes.  Perhaps by […]

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 […]

Kurzweil’s How to Create a Mind, and mathematics

I listened last week to Diane Rehm’s interview with Ray Kurzweil, author of the book “How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed”  A transcript of the interview can be found here.

Published in mid-November, it is already a New York Times bestseller, and some of the responses to it from prominent […]

Finger counting, finger gnosia and cerebral structures

In June The Guardian posted an interesting piece on finger counting and numbers.  The main content of the article concerns the work of cognitive scientists Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller which explores the cultural diversity in finger counting.  It tells us that if asked to use you hands to count to 10, these variations will […]

Birds and the number 0

I’ve been working on an article that has me thinking about neuroscientifc studies on the cerebral representations of magnitude and it happened to be brought to my attention today that Irene Pepperberg spoke at the 2012 Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Animals.

Pepperberg is famous for having worked for many years with […]

Foraging for food, remembering, and mathematics

On April 16 Scientificamerican.com reported on research that links hunting for words with foraging for food.

Our brains may have evolved to forage for some kinds of memories in the same way, shifting our attention from one cluster of stored information to another depending on what each patch has to offer. Recently, Thomas Hills of […]