SS: Math, computers, and philosophy

A TV presenter in Singapore recently brought up a math problem that has been driving the Internet crazy.


Can you solve this problem?

The distinction between Mathematics and Physic...
The distinction between Mathematics and Physics is clear-cut, but not always obvious, especially in Mathematical Physics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


An interesting puzzle about the nature of numbers has always fascinated me: Are numbers (and mathematical formulas) real discoveries (the language of  God) or a human invention? Last night (April 16) PBS’s “Nova” set out to consider that puzzle in “The Great Math Mystery”. It is a beautiful show with some thought provoking ideas and images! Like so many of the NOVA shows it is amazing to watch – their graphics are excellent.



Join NOVA on a mathematical mystery tour—a provocative exploration of math’s astonishing power across the centuries. We discover math’s signature in the swirl of a nautilus shell, the whirlpool of a galaxy, and the spiral in the center of a sunflower. Math was essential to everything from the first wireless radio transmissions to the prediction and discovery of the Higgs boson and the successful landing of rovers on Mars. Astrophysicist and writer Mario Livio, along with a colorful cast of mathematicians, physicists, and engineers, follow math from Pythagoras to Einstein and beyond. It all leads to the ultimate riddle: Is math a human invention or the discovery of the language of the universe?

“The Future of Proof,” by Marianne Freiberger and Rachel Thomas, reports on a recent British Applied Mathematics colloquium on the topic, and introduces competing initial thoughts that are likely to come to mind:
Are mathematicians ever going to be replaced by computers? If maths was all about routine calculations, then the answer would most definitely be yes. But if you’ve ever tried to come up with a mathematical proof, or even played with a logic puzzle, you know this involves intuition and leaps of imagination you’d think are beyond any computer. Even just deciding which kind of questions are mathematically interesting, and which are boring or beyond reach, seems to be something that needs human input.


The answer.



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