what sort of maths do the aliens have?
September 30, 2012 6:24 PM Subscribe
Are some areas of maths inherently central and others as more peripheral?
Or is any sense of centrality just a human experience, a cultural artifact arising from:
what has had greater application,
what has been studied more,
what produces a greater sense of the sublime in the human mind?
Are some parts of mathematics inherently a more fundamental description of what is going on in the universe, or is it as silly (or correct?) to talk about maths that way as it would be to talk that way about a classical ballet?
Is there an objective way of classifying whether some branches of mathematics are inheritently more central and others less so? Assuming that's not something we really have a solid grasp on, what are the current ideas about this?
posted by compound eye to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Long ago, my housemate way studying knot theory and topology.
I wasn't, and my only contact with it was what he told me. At the time, I percieved it as beautiful and a triumph, but in the way a ship in a bottle is a beautiful triumph,
that so much care and effort was invested to perfect something utterly frivolous.
Of course I was wrong on the useless, topology and knot theory are both tremendously useful.
So the importance of topology and knot theory were validated in terms of human application, but does that hint at a deeper relevance, that these theories are at the core of how the big engine works?
*My friend J will complain this is such a second year university mathematics student conversation.
but I have never been a second year maths student,
I wasn't in the hot tub that night you and your classmates dropped acid and broke it all down.
(and did you resolve the mysteries that night or did you end up downloading goatse over a 14k modem?)
So I'm primed to be easily impressed, I have the wide ears open eyed gape of your 14 year old nephew.
(Just because you've told the kiki/bouba story in your best Vilayanur Ramachandran voice a couple of dozen times doesn't make it a cheap shot to blow my mind with it when you tell it to me for the first time.)