Extended Blog Intro
It is my firm conviction that there exists as much poetry, majesty and mystery within the inseparable fields of mathematics and science as is to be found anywhere. These are the instruments with which we cajole Mother Nature into offering up answers to some of her best kept secrets. And every now and again she rewards our endeavours with answers to a tiny proportion of her bountiful and seemingly limitless supply of enigmas. At their best, maths, science and philosophy become almost indistinguishable from one another – art forms of the very highest order, inspiring awe, provoking thought and stimulating intellect.
In the final analysis it may prove erroneous to presuppose that any symbolic language can ever ultimately offer deeper insight into the mystery of reality. Some of the philosophical interrogations facilitated by these languages have speculated at the existence of a logos or underlying rationale to be found in the universe, which I find dubious at best. But whether there is any underlying meaning or order, there are plenty of patterns out there, and maths offers us the best portal we have for finding our way towards them. Perhaps the search for these endless patterns, and the uncovering of them, is meaning enough. In the face of the mathematician Kurt Gödel’s 'Incompleteness Theorem', it may just have to be.
As the language of science and as the bedrock of modern technological civilisation, maths is irreplaceable and beyond compare. If we do ever discover an advanced alien civilisation, I wouldn’t mind hazarding a guess that they will owe those advancements to their own discoveries and investigations into the relationship between quanta – a relationship better known to us as the field of mathematics. Our hypothetical “n-fingered” alien counterparts may have arrived at a 'base-n' maths contrasting with our own base-10, but it will be maths nevertheless, and probably not so alien to our own breed, differing only in its arbitrary choice of base number. After all, we need only go back little more than 2,000 years in history to find evidence on our very own planet of the ancient Babylonians whose civilisation was propped up with a base-60 maths. Incidentally, it is the Babylonians to whom we owe our own sexagesimal units of minutes and hours today.
I’d like to conclude this introduction to my blog page with a quote from the mathematician and physicist, Galileo Galilei. As one of the leading lights and proponents of the scientific revolution taking place in Europe around the seventeenth century, Galileo as much as anyone appreciated the true value of mathematics and, what’s more, how to express that value poetically:
“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes - I mean the universe - but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.”
Galileo Galilei - Italian astronomer, mathematician and physicist (1564 – 1642)
Maths Puzzles & Brain-Teasers
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Extended Blog Intro