Mathematical universe

Feb 20th, 2014 | By
| Category: Columns, Daily Strange, Spring 2014, Web Exclusive

written by: Ivey Ingalls-Rubin

People have long been using mathematics to understand and simplify (depending on your capabilities of math) the universe and its physical properties. Along our road of enlightenment a perplexing notion bobbed its’ head to the surface, “What if the universe itself is merely a giant math function?” You may not be too confident in this, however Max Tegmark, a Swedish-American cosmologist and professor at Massachusetts institute of Technology (MIT) has come to believe just that.

According to Tegmark each and every essence in our known existence- including the human species- falls into an intricate, all-encompassing mathematical equation.

This notion is derived from the observation that the natural world is composed of endless patterns that show themselves everywhere, this is what is known as the Fibonacci sequence, which is a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. For example, the shell of a chambered nautilus is composed of a logarithmic spiral. Similarly you would find that the seeds of sunflowers are arranged in a pattern that follows the Fibonacci sequence.

This number sequence finds itself present in the non-living world as well. When you shoot a bow and arrow, or toss a ball, these objects follow a parabolic trajectory, and if that still isn’t enough examples, one might even tilt their head up and observe the orbits of the planets and other astrophysical bodies.

Some have disputed Tegmarks’ theory, stating that math was conjured up by humans to aid them in their never ending search for knowledge. That mathematics is merely a tool for information.

Is it not possible that each variable of the universe is part of an alphabet, and math is the tool that arranges those variables into a language in which we can all understand and learn from?

If mathematics does exist in a much more realistic sense than one might imagine, then as Tegmark would say, “Humans have the power not only to understand our world, but to shape and improve it.”

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/39-universe-made-math-says-scientist-123717144.html

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3 Comments to “Mathematical universe”

  1. sarah says:

    Awesome and makes you think about the things that we know nothing about and how we have the capabilities of learning soo much more about ourselves with each generation.

  2. Benoitismyhomie says:

    I really enjoyed reading this column piece. The concepts have been communicated clearly and succinctly. The composition leaves me with the impression that the author attempted to truly visualize the facets of her subject (i.e., the underpinning mathematical reality of existence itself) as she set out to convey this in her writing.

    To consider that the universe may, in fact, be a kind of mathematical abstract begs us to consider the vapid qualities of our own personal judgments that we often ascribe to other people, places, and events. We tend to have only a tiny parcel of information from which to base our conclusions. I for one am humbled by the profound complexity of the universe- reading something like this fortifies that feeling on a fundamental level.

    I hope the author will continue to share articles of a similar vein. Perhaps, in the future some reference to fractal geometry and its primary discoverer, Benoit Mandelbrot, as well as other notable figures in this field of interest, like Clifford Pickover. There are others, like Roger Penrose, who have participated in the exploration of the mathematical components of reality and have even postulated that these mathematical properties, of which the material world may be comprised, pertain to consciousness as well- suggesting an overarching quantum behavior applicable on all scales.

    The fractal world reflects the spiraling Fibonacci-esque manifestations within the material world and evokes an eerie self-similarity. While not necessarily appearing to be spiral-like, there’s a certain sameness when comparing a river that trickles into smaller streams to a human lung composed of smaller lung capillaries or to the structure of lightning. Everything’s building and breaking, merging and dividing, attracting and repelling in an ongoing spiral, perhaps forever.

    Mathematical properties are reflected in music, as well. Any genome sequence can apparently be represented by sound in such a way that can be considered, more or less, a form of music- often sounding like stripped down, new age techno. The manner in which music and mathematics can be extrapolated from the physical (and therefore the quantum, non-physical) is truly outstanding.

    Here’s an article from 2010 regarding creating music from DNA- http://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/jun/24/dna-genome-music-michael-zev-gordon

    Looking forward to more pieces like this in the future!

    ואהבת לרעך כמוך ;)

  3. Ivey says:

    Benoitismyhomie i appreciate your comment thoroughly, and have taken the time to read the article you linked above. So beautifully interesting.
    I have decided to write about this in an upcoming issue, please stick around to read.
    and thank you for distributing such awesome information, there’s nothing i enjoy reading about more than the universe, humans, and all the magnificent science that lies between them.

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