Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Great Math Mystery (2015)

Mathematical Mysteries

“Why does this work? How can mathematics be so powerful? Is mathematics, you know, a truth of nature, or does it have something to do with the way that we, as humans, perceive nature? To me this is just a fascinating puzzle. I don't know the answer.”
Andrew J. Lankford, Professor of Physics & Astronomy, 
University of California, Irvine

The Great Math Mystery, shown on NOVA (PBS-TV; original broadcast date: April 15, 2015), a science show on the American public broadcast channel.

This science show gives some very good examples on how math informs our thinking on everything from music to flowers to modern technologies to space exploration. For example, the mathematical symbol, π (pi), is all around us in nature. Math is used by mathematicians, physicists, engineers and all scientists, and although much is known about the predictive powers of math, essentially as it pertains to the fundamental particles of nature, there are current limitations in our understanding.

Math is not entirely predictive or understood in areas of human biology and neuroscience and, of course, in long-term weather forecasting. This documentary posits that math explains many areas of our existence, and that math is both invented and discovered, that is, math is a mystery to be discovered, to unlock the secrets of the universe and/or that humans have invented math to make sense of the natural world around us.

Or, perhaps, even of the unseen world, as math is used to look at patterns of words in the Bible, which is found in the use of gematria (in which Hebrew letters correspond to numbers), which forms a part of the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition. Such is the mystery of math; it is used as a tool to unlock the mysteries of the universe, which means the mysteries, for us here on earth, of the known world. It is human nature to want to know, to understand, and math helps us in this quest.

There have been a number of great mathematicians in the modern era, including Albert Einstein [1879–1955], Emmy Noether [1882-1935], John von Neumann [1903-1957], and Paul Erdös [1913-1996], to name only a few that quickly come to mind. The transcript of the show can be found [here]. For more on mathematics and mathematicians, go [here] and [here] and [here].

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