(Scientific American) Why Math Works
Is math invented or discovered? A leading astrophysicist suggests that the answer to the millennia-old question is both
Most of us take it for granted that math works—that scientists can devise formulas to describe subatomic events or that engineers can calculate paths for spacecraft. We accept the view, initially espoused by Galileo, that mathematics is the language of science and expect that its grammar explains experimental results and even predicts novel phenomena. The power of mathematics, though, is nothing short of astonishing.
Consider, for example, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s famed equations: not only do these four expressions summarize all that was known of electromagnetism in the 1860s, they also anticipated the existence of radio waves two decades before German physicist Heinrich Hertz detected them. Very few languages are as effective, able to articulate volumes’ worth of material so succinctly and with such precision.
Albert Einstein pondered, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?”
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