Infinity is not the problem

An article published in May in Quanta Magazine had the following remark as its lead:

A surprising new proof is helping to connect the mathematics of infinity to the physical world.

My first thought was that the mathematics of infinity is already connected to the physical world. But Natalie Wolchover’s opening few paragraphs were inviting:


What’s the fuss about entropy?

In 2011 John Horgan posted a piece on his blog, Cross Check (part of the Scientific American blog network), with the title, Why Information can’t be the basis of reality. There Horgan makes the observation that the “everything-is-information meme violates common sense.” As of last December (at least) he hadn’t changed his mind. He referred […]

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 […]

The end of science?

Paperback and electronic versions of John Horgan’s 1996 book, The End of Science, have recently been published by Basic Books. Horgan wrote a bit about how the text was received in 1996 on his weekly Scientific American blog. I read the book in 1996 and wrote to Horgan about the impact it had on me. […]

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, […]

My article in +Plus Magazine

My piece on Riemann and cognition was published this week in +Plus.  Here’s the link.

Wigner, Persig, Leibniz and the nature of reality

I saw an opinion piece by Stephen Ornes, in the March 16 issue of New Scientist which ties the ongoing debate about the nature of mathematical ideas, to a modern one about money and ownership.  Ornes argues that patentability is one of the most hotly contested issues in software development.  The problem, as many see […]

Are we finding the mathematical structure of reality?

I’m intrigued by Max Tegmark’s conviction that the universe is, itself, a mathematical structure.  He presented his ideas, again, on February 15 at the recent annual meeting of AAAS, in a symposium called Is Beauty Truth? He said that he has just completed a book on the same topic.  I listened to the entire session […]