Exploring the Cosmology of Math
by Jessica Salgado
Mathematics have proven to be the best way to describe how the world works. The biggest question in math still seize to be unanswered. Where does math come from? In the documentary “The Great Math Mystery”, explores the question of why does math do a great job in explaining the world we live in today by asking and analyzing math in nature.
The documentary starts off by drawing attention to the fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence is a set of numbers that are produced by adding the two last numbers. A person first start off with 0,1 and then adding both of the numbers up which results in the answer 1. The result is then added to the sequence. So now the sequence is 0,1,1. Then after that you add the last two numbers of the sequence which results in number two. Then result is added to the sequence. The sequence then looks like 0,1,1,2. This pattern continues on and has been seen to appear a lot in our world. For instance, the Fibonacci sequence seems to appear in places such as, the number of pedals in daisy’s, the number of spirals in a sunflower, the bracts of a pinecone, and tree branches. The number of pedals on each daisy’s seems to sound like a random number but this type of flower seems to favor Fibonacci numbers.
So why then does nature seem to favor the Fibonacci sequence? Does nature know how to do mathematical operations? I do not think so. Is the sequence arbitrary sequence? I do not think so either.
Furthermore, in the documentary they mention river sinuosity, which is the curves of the river. The importance of the curves of the is that many mathematicians have theorized that in most rivers the average approximation of a river’s bendiness is pie. They measure its bendiness by obtaining the length of the river divided by the direct route. When a river is completely straight the river’s sinuosity is 1. To better understand the gist of river sinuosity I watched a video called “Pi me a river” that perfectly describes this theory.
This video explains the dynamic of the theory. River sinuosity is a theory without any concrete applications. But with this in mind, many great mathematicians like Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity by assuming that an invisible force such as when an apple falls down. He believed that the same force that holds the planets in order is the same invisible force on the moon-gravity. Without having an sort of application Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity.The sinuosity of a river seems to not have any sort of applications, but is a recurring measurement that appears in rivers. Is this a arbitrary thing? How is it possible that math is an exact approximation to understand how things in nature works? What is the essence of math? What is math’s origin? So this leads me to ask, if math is not arbitrary then is math discovered or invented?
As the documentary progresses, there seems to ask whether math is discovered or invented. If math were to be discovered it would not make sense to state that a person discovered something that has already been there or to explain something that has already been there. For now, let’s say math is invented. Which brings me to my next topic. If math were to be invented, then is math something created by something, someone, or a thing? In the documentary, Max Tegmark is a professor at MIT, who believes that math is like a video game and that the foundation of math built in our brains. A video game is a set of algorithms, properties, and equations of things that are all mathematical which is put in a software that defines the game. Tegmark believes that their are a lot of similarities between this world and video games because math does not only describe reality in some parts but it is the essence of reality. He believes that math can go as far and be our physical reality. Like a digital photo as a person tries to view the picture closer and closer, only pixels are seen. Tegmark believes that our reality is like this and that math is invented by math and that is all too it. But a huge counter argument against this claim is that If math were to be built in our brain then why do we sense that when we have solved a mathematical problem it seems that we found an answer that was not there but it was already there. Discovered instead of invented.
Furthermore, in the documentary a scientist named Liz Duke lemur center in North Carolina does varies experiments with lemurs. She compares the lemurs reaction when choosing between two different quantities of food. She notices that every time the lemurs always pick the amount that has the most. Animals, such as lemurs, have a notion of what math is, without understanding what it is. If math were to be invented from our minds what is its extent? In the documentary a speaker, Mario Livio, states how is it possible that “The product of human thought does so well in defining the universe,” with this in mind is the product of the human thought ineffective-having no significant results? Throughout time many mathematicians have theorized and made equations based on assumptions and experiments that has given them results that have patterns, without explaining or having any applications to back up their points. I watched a video called “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics” where Mario Livio describes the strange way in which math seems to work without having any sort of applications, it just works until many years later someone figures out or gives these applications needed.
In brief, we use math everyday, we see math everyday, math is everything, so how could it possibly be ineffective? Math is something significant to us but produces results that describes the world around us. How is it possible that the length of every river to the ocean is approximately pie? Why does nature seem to favor the Fibonacci sequence? Does nature know how to do mathematical operations? How do animals, such as lemurs, have a notion of what math is, without understanding what it is? If math were to be invented from our minds what is its extent? Although people have created this definition of what math is, it does a very good job in explaining the world we live in. In the documentary “The Great Math Mystery”, explores the question of why does math do a great job in explaining the world we live in today by asking and analyzing math in nature. It seems that the math itself is a mystery that has an answer to everything, but not for itself.