Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The influence of mathematics

  1. Apr 10, 2005 #1
    I wonder about the extent to which mathematics has influenced the development of physics. Could the physics have been different if the developement of mathematics had taken a different path? For, not all physicists can develope new mathematical techniques which may be required to study a phenomenon. ( For example,do we not tend to model any a phenomena as 'linear' because the theory of linear differential equations is better developed?)
    Please favour me with your opinions.
    I'm, with great respect,
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2005 #2

    Math is clearly needed for physics. But, up to what extend? well, good question. I think that if, for exaple, the famous apple hadden't fallen in Newton's head, maybe he would have never invented calculus. Without the mathematics used in calculus, many of the physics now a days wouldn't exist and we would have nver solved many problems. But maybe if the apple had fallen in.....anonymous' head, then he maybe would have invented another math called: suluclac, and maybe with this math we could have solved the same problems but in a differen way. Or maybe physics would have changed it's way if maths changes it's way., and other problems would have been solved. Maybe a new pioneering math, like calculus in it's time, is created by someone and that changes the way of math and physics, and with this chages, our lives would also change. What if Einstein had been a good worker and instead of concentrating in his youthfull ideas he would have been an effective worker? many things would be different.
  4. Apr 10, 2005 #3
    i have a question too: could mathematics have taken on a different path? if it did, isn't it essentially talking about the same thing differently?
  5. Apr 10, 2005 #4
    Math could have taken a different path how I have already explained in my earlier post. But maybe that path would have lead to the same problem solvations but in a different way. And secondly, yes and no. All math is reduced to the demonstration that something equals something (x=x), (apart from the 0.999.....=1 demonstrations and etz...which aren't exactly math), but all maths do in in different ways, for different things, uses and purposes, and for different reasons.
  6. Apr 10, 2005 #5
    Math is invention and appart form our brain it has no intrinsic value. Nature does not care about math. Yes, it is very important to us but is not natural science.

    Ex: I write computer program to calculate some complicated 11D geometry intersection of moving 3 bodies. It will get translated into binary and solved by manipulating electrical signals from register to register. I solved natural problem using invention this does not however mean that nature used some equation to cause the object to colide at that point in space and time.

    If i define that 1+1=9 i still can redo all the math relations to get working math. is it not?

  7. Apr 11, 2005 #6
    i dont know too much about the history of mathematics, but isn't that sort of what happened when Leibiz and Newton both invented Calculus?
  8. Apr 12, 2005 #7
    Math is an instrument. You set up a problem domain and use the instrument to get solutions. The problem domain and solutions are related to the instrument you use and can use and the instrument subtly chooses the problem domain.

    Maybe science will progress past mathematics, maybe this instrument is limited in our ability to understand and manipulate, maybe computers will completely substitute math reasoning in a few hundred years and the scientists of the future will not only even know math anymore but may not even be aware that the future supercomputer-robot-automatic scientist is using it.

    It could be that our concetration on this instrument is given to our historical period and no longer be important at all in the future. Like theology or philosophy, we get by not knowing so much about either.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook