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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A mathematical knot looks very much like a familiar knot in a string, only with the string’s ends spliced a few examples of knots are shown in figure 1. Unfortunately, by the time that this heroic effort was completed, Kelvin’s theory had already been totally discarded as a model for atomic structure.

Two knots that have different Alexander polynomials are matheematics different e. Sciences reach a point where they become mathematized. In this article, Wigner referred to the uncanny ability of mathematics not only to describebut even to predict phenomena in the physical world.

The puzzle of the power of mathematics is in fact even more complex than the above example of electromagnetism mathe,atics suggest. To assert that the world can be explained via mathematics amounts to an act of faith. Richard Hammingan applied mathematician and a founder of computer sciencereflected on and extended Wigner’s Unreasonable Effectiveness inmulling over four “partial explanations” for it.

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?

In other words, physicists and mathematicians thought that knots were viable models for atoms, and consequently they enthusiastically engaged in the mathematical study of knots.

Unreasonable effectiveness |

In other words, at least some of the laws of nature are formulated in directly applicable mathematical terms. Whether humans checking the results of humans can be considered an objective basis for observation of the known to humans universe is an interesting question, one followed up in both cosmology and the philosophy of mathematics. It follows the lives and thoughts of some of the greatest mathematicians in history, and attempts to explain the “unreasonable effectiveness” of mathematics.

Still, even without any other application in sight, the mathematical interest in knot theory continued at that point for its own sake. Furthermore, the leading string theorist Ed Witten demonstrated that the Jones polynomial affords new insights in one of the most fundamental areas of research in modern physics, known as quantum field theory.


However, the minimum number of crossings is actually not a very useful invariant.

Unreasonable effectiveness

Mario Livio’s book Is God a Mathematician? Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 16 October We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning. Retrieved from ” https: Would they now be one piece and both speed up?

It would give us a deep sense of frustration in our search for what I called ‘the ultimate truth’. His interests span a broad range of topics in astrophysics, from cosmology to the emergence of intelligent life.

The Applicability of Mathematics in Science: So knot theory emerged from an attempt to explain physical reality, then it wandered into the abstract realm of pure mathematics—only to eventually return to its ancestral origin.

Dr Livio has done much fundamental work on the topic of accretion of mass onto black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs, as well as on the formation of black holes and the possibility to extract energy from them.

There was mathematics here! But suppose further that one piece happened to touch the other one.

This page was last edited on 17 Novemberat The New Zealander-American mathematician Vaughan Jones detected an unexpected relation between knots and another abstract branch of unrwasonable known as von Neumann algebras. There is only one thing which is more unreasonable than the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in physics, and this is the unreasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics in biology.

Recall that Thomson started to study mathrmatics because he was searching for a theory of atoms, then considered to be the most basic constituents of matter. The mere possibility of understanding the properties of knots and the principles that govern their classification was seen by most mathematicians as exquisitely beautiful and essentially irresistible.

Suppose that a falling body wignre into two pieces. This particular need sparked a great interest in the mathematical theory of knots.

Later, Hilary Putnam explained these “two miracles” as being necessary consequences of a realist but not Platonist view of the philosophy of mathematics. In order to be able to develop something like a periodic table of the elements, Thomson had to be able to classify knots—find out which different knots are possible. 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?


The reasonable though perhaps limited effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences”. The Jones polynomial distinguishes, for instance, even between knots and their mirror images figure 3for which the Alexander polynomials were identical.

Sundar Sarukkai 10 February Peter Woita theoretical physicist, believes that this conflict exists in string theorywhere very abstract models may be impossible to test in any foreseeable experiment. Ivor Grattan-Guinness finds the effectiveness in question eminently reasonable and explicable in terms of concepts such as analogy, generalisation and metaphor.

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

The writer is convinced that it is useful, in epistemological discussions, to abandon the idealization that the level of human intelligence has a singular position on an absolute scale. Wigner’s work provided a fresh insight into both physics and the philosophy of mathematicsand has been fairly often cited in the academic literature on the philosophy of physics and of mathematics. A different response, advocated by physicist Max Tegmarkis that physics is so successfully described by mathematics because the physical world is completely mathematicalisomorphic to a mathematical structure, and that we are simply uncovering this bit by bit.

Consequently, while it was certainly very useful, the Alexander polynomial was still not perfect for classifying knots. Industrial and applied mathematics.

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Wikipedia

First, it was the active effectiveness of mathematics that came into play. The earliest lifeforms must have contained the seeds of the human ability to create and follow long chains of close reasoning.

Of course the two pieces would immediately slow down to their appropriate speeds.