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Can physics function without math?

  1. Dec 4, 2013 #1
    Can it ever be possible? I know it might make no sense at all, but think about it just a bit.
    How could our ancestors study without proper math that we have today...
    I'm not sure if this is the right place to post it(New here).
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2013 #2

    ZombieFeynman

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    In liu of mathematics, how do you suppose we would model natural phenomena in a way which would yield testable predictions?
     
  4. Dec 4, 2013 #3
    Possibly using diagrams? :tongue:
    Math is a reasoning method we use, maybe there could be other ways? I don't know... I want to see all your perspectives!
     
  5. Dec 4, 2013 #4
    I'm certainly not clever enough to find a better alternative than mathematics to express physics.
     
  6. Dec 4, 2013 #5

    WannabeNewton

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    Good luck representing infinite dimensional vector spaces as diagrams.
     
  7. Dec 4, 2013 #6

    Evo

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    Because their level of understanding couldn't use today's math if it was handed to them.

    Is there really a point to what you are asking? Stop and think about what you are asking. Why do you believe that today's physics wouldn't need math and explain your reasoning.
     
  8. Dec 4, 2013 #7

    Astronuc

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    One should look at the status of science or 'physics' two, three or four centuries ago. Before 'physics', there was 'natural philosophy'. One should look at the development of calculus in conjunction with the development of physics and astronomy.

    Of course, arithmetic and geometry/trigonometry have been around longer, and one can see what was accomplished with those tools.
     
  9. Dec 4, 2013 #8

    AlephZero

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    Nearly all the "advanced" math used in physics was invented/discovered nearly 200 years ago, and some of it is a lot older than that. Even the ancient Greeks were doing things that were very close to calculus.

    The one big thing that is genuinely modern is non-mechanical computers, and even then the basic ideas were invented before 1850 (and shock horror, some of them were even invented by women!!!)

    Mathematicians have always made a living by getting paid to solve the problems of their own time. Given what people like Gauss, Lagrange, Euler, Laplace, etc achieved, claiming they "couldn't have used today's math if it was handed to them" seems either patronizing or ill-informed IMO.
     
  10. Dec 4, 2013 #9

    Evo

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    I guess if it depends on recent ancestors or ancient ancestors, I was thinking ancient ancestors, you're thinking only a couple of hundred years, which I consider the beginning of modern math.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculus#History
     
  11. Dec 4, 2013 #10

    jedishrfu

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  12. Dec 4, 2013 #11

    Evo

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    That's the problem I was pointing out to the OP, he didn't say. How can we have a discussion if he says nothing specific?

    What exactly does he mean? What time period? He never said.
     
  13. Dec 4, 2013 #12
    Geometry is math.
    Any method which can be used to reason is math.
    Mathematics is the science of numbers, quantities, and shapes and the relations between them. Can you possibly make sense of the physical world without any quantification? Even the statement "a banana is lighter than a water melon" is math http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inequality_(mathematics)‎
     
  14. Dec 5, 2013 #13

    dlgoff

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    Maybe the OP is using the word "physics" defined like this:

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/physics

    Which may not function without math. :bugeye:
     
  15. Dec 5, 2013 #14

    ZombieFeynman

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    I would wager that Archimedes would understand calculus with a tiny bit of time. So, now we're at two thousand years. How ancient is ancient?
     
  16. Dec 5, 2013 #15

    lisab

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    Physics without math is like literature without words.
     
  17. Dec 5, 2013 #16

    jedishrfu

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  18. Dec 5, 2013 #17

    ZombieFeynman

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    Precisely my point, sir.
     
  19. Dec 5, 2013 #18
    ding ding ding
     
  20. Dec 5, 2013 #19

    jgens

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    This is pushing it. I would wager that most mathematicians would disagree with that.

    I am actually not so sure. Yes we now understand words like "lighter" numerically in terms of mass/force, but this is a posteriori. No doubt our ancient ancestors could make sense of a phrase like that without the use of numbers.
     
  21. Dec 5, 2013 #20
    Then our ancestors were using math. That they did it "without the use of numbers" doesn't matter at all.
     
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