Numbers

Through the the readings I came across an essay from Lazer calls 'The Unity of Science', which is the first essay in the reading brick.

While reading it, I came across an interesting phrase on page 6, and it goes like this, to the 'corresponds to the aspect of reality (as we experience it) that Greek philosophers called becoming, as opposed to the timeless being of numbers, triangles, and circles.'

I found it interesting that the greeks used the idea of 'becoming', which is understandable due to the fact that the future is something that out of our perception is going to happen. However, numbers on the other hand are fixed and only describe a single particular unit, which surely is beneficial. But can it actually describe the complexities we face in understanding our world and the Universe we live in? In particular knowing that the Universe is something that is in motion and always changing and expanding.

Up to now numbers (and their use through mathematics) has been very successful in helping to create theories or to make some mathematical sense. But are numbers and with this I am including Mathematics not bound to the human mind, which is far from perfect or all knowing. Thus we not only face the problem of the actual human capability to understand the Universe, but also the fact that we use a concept of describing the (U)niverse in terms of numbers that we have created ourselves. Therefore, are we not bound in the end to our own limitations? May be, this is why the greeks used the term 'becoming' as it cannot necessarily be described by our understanding, simply because you cannot see or understand the future with certainty.

This is just a thought I had while reading, please feel free to criticize my possible misunderstanding.

Leonidas

U4693040

[[blue Leonidas,

The abstraction of objects using numbers slightly strange way of understanding the universe I will agree, but it is necessary to prevent massive logical paradoxes in the most basic mathematical statements. For instance, unless you have numbers, adding and subtracting makes no sense and quantities cannot be given any sense of meaning in relation to themselves or other types of quantities.

The whole idea of "number" is a useful, practical way of quantifying the existence of something, but it is no more than that. Numbers and mathematics are tools that we use to understand the universe, which may or may not be mathematical and/or logical in nature.

In the end, we have to accept that it is mathematically impossible to prove that 1 plus 1 does in fact equal 2 (Godels Incompleteness Theorem of 1931), but we then accept this fundamental paradox because mathematics is too useful to discard.

Now, in terms of what is possible with very simple mathematical systems, we can get immensely complicated behaviour out of a few simple rules. Look up a simulation called Life on wikipedia, if you are interested. The 'future' or output in a mathematical system can in fact be uncertain. Certain chaotic systems can vary greatly depending on what you feed into them.

In the end, I think that numbers, like computers, shapes and clockwork are simply tools. It's just that Nature often uses these as well or better than we do, but buried so deeply that their true form is hidden, which is why they contrast so heavily when revealed, which might be why the Greeks used 'becoming'.

Andrew (U4521338) ]]