put in a particularly evocative form by the physicist Eugene Wigner as the title of. a lecture in in New York: “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics. On ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences’. Sorin Bangu. Abstract I present a reconstruction of Eugene Wigner’s argument for . Maxwell, Helmholtz, and the Unreasonable Effectiveness of the Method of Physical Bokulich – – Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

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Reprinted in Putnam, Hilary Unfortunately, by the time that this heroic effort was completed, Kelvin’s theory had already been totally discarded as a model for atomic structure. We should stop acting as if our goal is to author extremely elegant theories, and instead embrace complexity and make use of the best ally we have: In the present short article I will not even attempt to answer this intricate question.

But suppose further that one piece happened to touch the other one. Cosmology Foundations of mathematics Mark Steiner Mathematical universe hypothesis Philosophy of science Quasi-empiricism in mathematics Relationship between mathematics and physics Scientific structuralism Unreasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics Where Mathematics Comes From.

This page was last edited on 17 Novemberat Newton, for instance, formulated the branch of mathematics known as calculus because he needed this tool for his equations of motion. In particular, string theorists Hirosi Ooguri and Cumrun Vafa discovered that the number of complex topological structures that are formed when many strings interact is related to the Jones polynomial.

These equations also describe radio waves, discovered by David Edward Hughes inaround the time of James Clerk Maxwell ‘s death. Biology was now the study of information stored in DNA — strings of four letters: Hence, their accuracy may not prove their truth and consistency.

And if that is not enough, the modern theory of electrodynamics, known as quantum electrodynamics QEDis even more astonishing. The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.


The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

It would give kathematics a deep sense of frustration in our search for what I called ‘the ultimate truth’. New Directions in the Philosophy of Science. Indeed, how is it possible that all the phenomena observed in classical electricity and magnetism can be explained by means of just four mathematical equations?

Mathematics addresses only a part of human experience. Wigner begins his paper with the belief, common among those familiar with mathematics, that mathematical concepts have applicability far beyond the context in which they were originally developed. Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics. When are two pieces one?

A, T, G, and C. Journal of the Franklin Institute.

Eugene Wigner, The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences – PhilPapers

The World of Mathematics. Retrieved 16 October Suppose I tie the two pieces together. In other words, at least some of the laws of nature are formulated in directly applicable mathematical terms. Approximation theory Numerical analysis Differential equations Dynamical systems Control theory Variational calculus.

Much of human experience does not fall under science or mathematics but under the philosophy of valueincluding ethicsaestheticsand political philosophy. Image created by Ann Feild. The Jones polynomial distinguishes, for instance, even between knots and their mirror images figure 3for which the Alexander polynomials were identical.

Inthe American mathematician James Waddell Alexander discovered an algebraic expression known as the Alexander polynomial that uses the arrangement of crossings to label the knot.

How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? The passive effectiveness, on the other hand, refers to cases in which abstract mathematical theories had been developed with absolutely no applications in mind, only to turn out decades, or sometimes centuries later, to be powerfully predictive physical models.


Computational logic Algorithms design analysis Information theory Coding theory Cryptography. When a better mathematical model in the form of the Bohr atom was discovered, mathematicians did not abandon knot theory. The puzzle of the power of mathematics is in fact even more complex than the above example of electromagnetism might suggest.

Unreasonable effectiveness |

Later, Hilary Putnam explained these “two miracles” as being necessary consequences of a realist but not Platonist view of the philosophy of mathematics. Knots leading the way, from the atom to pure maths and back to physical matter.

Hamming gives four examples of nontrivial physical phenomena he believes arose from the mathematical tools employed and not from the intrinsic properties of physical reality. There are actually two facets to the “unreasonable effectiveness,” one that I will effectivenesx active and another that I dub passive.

Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Unreasonable effectiveness

To assert that the world can be explained via mathematics amounts to an act of faith. Journal of Fourier Analysis and Applications.

Wigner speculated on the relationship between the philosophy of science and the foundations of mathematics as follows:. Mario Livio’s book Is God a Mathematician? Eddington went so far as to claim that a sufficiently wise mind could deduce all of physics, illustrating his point with the following joke: In a group of physicists at Harvard University determined the magnetic moment of the electron which measures how strongly the electron interacts with a magnetic field to a precision of eight parts in a trillion.

Sundar Sarukkai 10 February In what follows I will describe a wonderful example of the continuous interplay between active and passive effectiveness.