The theme for this Essay Contest is: "Trick or Truth: the Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics".I have submitted essays in the past. One of them was actually leading in the ratings at one point, but none of them won any prizes.

In many ways, physics has developed hand-in-hand with mathematics. It seems almost impossible to imagine physics without a mathematical framework; at the same time, questions in physics have inspired so many discoveries in mathematics. But does physics simply wear mathematics like a costume, or is math a fundamental part of physical reality?

Why does mathematics seem so “unreasonably” effective in fundamental physics, especially compared to math’s impact in other scientific disciplines? Or does it? How deeply does mathematics inform physics, and physics mathematics? What are the tensions between them — the subtleties, ambiguities, hidden assumptions, or even contradictions and paradoxes at the intersection of formal mathematics and the physics of the real world?

This essay contest will probe the mysterious relationship between physics and mathematics.

These are mainly physicists who are always going nuts with wild speculations about multiverses, quantum teleportation, and stuff like that. So they do not like my positivist and skeptical attitudes.

They do not give prizes to the more speculative essay either. You cannot say something that the judges think is false. Some of the winning essays are interesting, but most do not say much.

One question seems to be influenced by one of my essays:

What would it mean for something in the physical world to be NOT describable or model-able in terms of mathematics?My 2012 essay said:

Much of modern theoretical physics assumes that the true nature of reality is mathematics. This is a great mistake. The assumption underlies most of the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, and has no empirical justification. Accepting that the assumption is wrong will allow physics and mathematics to progress as distinct disciplines. ...I could be wrong, of course, but I seem to be the only one who seems to have considered the possibility that fundamental physics is not describable by math.

The 2011 FQXi essay contest asked, “Is Reality Digital or Analog?” The answers accepted the premise that reality had to be one or the other, and no one admitted the possibility that it might be neither because both are mathematical.

Roger,

ReplyDeleteI like the train of thought you are following concerning the separation between mathematics and physics. I would posit that neither Physics nor Mathematics can ever fully describe reality, because in the end, as with any language, you are modeling/representing one thing with another thing. When we use the word 'dog', it refers to the actual class of creature, but the word isn't the creature, will never become the creature, and can only represent as much as the listener knows about what a dog is, which may be more or less correct or incorrect. When you describe something, with language or math, or physics, you are using the conventions and rules of one thing to create a model/representation of some kind of something else entirely. The understanding underlying the model is and always has been that is isn't what is actually being modeled, or else, why do it at all? The moment representation of another thing comes into play, you are admitting it isn't the thing itself, to do otherwise is self deception and folly.

The question that is not being asked that should be is, Can any system of description, no matter how complex, whether physical or abstract, be deceived? This is THE philosophical can of worms the mathematicians do not want to open because they are fully aware that any system can be employed to any effect you desire given enough knowledge and skill. A mathematician is just as technically capable as any magician at engineering deception, history is replete with examples of this. Both are more than readily adept at the willful manipulation of the observer...and unfortunately themselves.

Once upon a time, people discovered that the priest of any god can lie as well as anyone else. Should we not be equally skeptical of each newly minted school of mouthpieces professing to only speak the truth?