Tag Archives: mathematics

Is God a Mathematician? – The book doesn’t answer that question

I recently read the book, Is God a Mathematician by Mario Livio. I picked it up at the JeffCo Libraries Whale of a Book Sale. I figured the book would not answer the question posed by the title, but I thought it would talk a little bit more about logical proofs for or against an all powerful being. In a way, I am glad that it did not do that. It was mostly on the question, is mathematics invented, or is it discovered?

My favorite chapter was probably chapter 5 on statistics and probability. I learned a little bit more about how games of chance helped influence mathematical thought. They discussed games of chance on pages 138-140, but it was involving dice. I thought that card games influenced mathematical thinkers more when it came to chance and probability of winning various hands of cards. That didn’t seem to come up in the book.

I guess I am on the side of the fence for mathematics being discovered. I think that prime numbers and the number pi exist with or without human involvement. It is just up to us to find them in the world of mathematics. But, math is more than just numbers, it also involves concepts such as functions, and algebraic concepts of unkowns in formulas. There is a lot of math in physical concepts such as waves of light or the Navier-Stokes equations in fluid dynamics. That math would still exist even if we did not find them. Other intelligent life forms would probably also know about pi, prime numbers, the speed of light in a vacuum, E = mc2, and the Navier-Stokes equations.

However, we can invent different ways to communicate the concepts of mathematics, just as calculus can be communicated using different terminology. So, the way to communicate mathematics can be invented.

Anyway, it was a good book. It was not earthshaking, and it did not answer the main question in the title, but it was an interesting read.