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Why has mathematics worked so far to describe the laws of nature ?

  1. Mankind developped mathematics looking at nature

  2. The one who created the universe was a mathematician

  3. Because we have just been lucky

  4. None of the above

  1. Jul 19, 2007 #1
    I think this is a recurring theme in many other threads, but haven't seen a poll.
    If we can get a large enough number of participants, would suggest to publish the results.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2007 #2
    "why"-questions are usually too difficult to have right answers.
  4. Jul 19, 2007 #3
    Point taken jostpuur, that's why I left option 4 (None of the above), so for those who :

    -don't know
    -believe it is too fiicult too answer
    -think the question makes no sense
    -think there is another explanation or that the other 3 options are simply too reductive

    please vote 4
  5. Jul 19, 2007 #4


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    I wonder would nature would do in case of (4)? It seems to be a matter of fact that those questions that have perfect answers are very rare in the first place. So unless we can handle imperfect questions, we would be crippled.

    I sometimes wonder if there is an "uncertainty relation" between questions and answers. Some questions, that have close to perfect answers, are sometimes trivial. But the really non-trivial questions, that you really want answered, tend to often be shown the most difficult to answer. Maybe we are simply unlikely to know the question and the answer at the same time? Why would anyone bother posing a question to which the answer is obvious? Any why would anyone pose a question that seems impossible to answer? The interesting questions, that can be constructively made progress on, seems to be in the middle?

    Anyone else reflected over this?

  6. Jul 19, 2007 #5


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    By looking at nature, mankind developed also other stuff, art for example. Nevertheless, art have not turned up to describe the laws of nature.

    A law must be based on logic, otherwise it is not a law. Therefore, the laws of anything (including nature) must be based on logic. Mathematics is just a branch of logic.
  7. Jul 19, 2007 #6
    yes-- (aren't logical people some of the most enjoyable to talk to?)---

    Math was developed (from what I remember) from a need to communicate with others (basically business at its origin), and was then used to 'explain' "other things",e.g., the world (and beyond) and what goes on it.

    'Pure math' , however, to me, has its own properties---and is more like art (an 'Art') in its own right.

    I think eliminating/'not answering directly' a 'Why' question (by saying its a philosophical issue) is a mistake and a cop-out, just because the word 'why' is used; for, its just as useful, 'logical', and necessary in a physics discussion as a 'how', 'what', or whatever inquiry--and could/can be easily re-phrased as one or more of the others.

    Math (expressions)--(in physics here), to me, is a function to express a mental and/or verbal image of a thought, to which, has a more common ground in the ability to communicate the abstract thought, and can be applied, in some way, to explain the initial thought.

    So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? (the egg, of course--without a doubt) ----and, that the abstract thought is first in my book.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2007
  8. Jul 19, 2007 #7
    "The one who created the universe was a mathematician"

    But I really prefer the dual formulation: Physics is divine mathematics.
  9. Jul 19, 2007 #8
    I agree with that, rewebster. Mathematics is vital, crucial, but it's a means to an end. It has to be the servant of our logic and thought and our physics. Not, as it sometimes seems, the master.

    You know, looking at that poll, I don't think mathematics has described the laws of nature. If it had, we wouldn't still be doing physics. We do physics because we want to know how the universe works, and we want to know how those laws work. But as yet we don't know. So in a way, those two little words "so far" actually mean "has not".

    Can I add that I don't like to hear the phrase "law of nature". If I say How does that work? people tend to say It's a law of nature. Then when I press for more, they tend to say It just is.

    So that's a None of the above for me.
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