Physics, Plato and epistemology

In a recent Scientific American article, the late physicist Victor Stenger, along with authors James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian argue that, while not acknowledged as such, some interpretations of quantum mechanics are implicitly platonic (with a lower-case p).

We will use platonism with a lower-case “p” here to refer to the belief that the […]

Computations can be very natural

A recent post on Mind Hacks challenged the perspective outlined in a NY Times op-ed by psychologist Gary Marcus with the title Face It, Your Brain Is a Computer. The title of Marcus’ piece may be misleading. The brain/computer analogy that he proposes is more a strategy than a theory. But the rejection of brain/computer […]

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. […]

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 […]

Reanimating the living world

Each year, Edge.org asks contributors to respond to their annual question. In 2014, the question was: What scientific idea is ready for retirement? There were 174 interesting responses, but one that got my attention was written by Scott Sampson (author, Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life). The idea that Sampson would like […]

A mathematical philosophy – a digital view

I’ve become fascinated with Gregory Chaitin’s exploration of randomness in computing and his impulse to bring these observations to bear on physical, mathematical, and biological theories. His work inevitably addresses epistemological questions – what it means to know, to comprehend – and leads him to move (as he says in a recent paper) in the […]

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, […]

Scientific American Guest Blog Link

I’m planning to post something new this week, but I would also like to share the link to my guest blog for Scientific American that was posted last week. The title of the piece is: To What Extent Do We See With Mathematics?

Hope you enjoy it.

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 […]

Can we see where math begins and science ends?

Galileo is often called the father of modern science because of an insight he had about the relationship between mathematics, and what we are able to see in our world. Two of John Horgan’s recent blog posts (and the writing to which they refer) nicely demonstrate what I think is a remarkable oversight in discussions […]