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Discussion > Is Maths the 'Be All and End All' of Science?

But I think he was always clear that you needed to do the maths to fully understand what was happening.

No question about that.

Mar 10, 2016 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

I have said all along that maths was essential to understand and communicate most of what is going on but in terms of recognising that 'something' is going on maths plays no part. You could say that humans recognise questions and then ask mathematicians to help solve them ^.^

Mar 11, 2016 at 1:02 AM | Registered CommenterDung

You could say that, but you'd be wrong.

The problem you have Dung, is in defining "mathematics" as algebra and calculus.

Science observes the behaviour of the natural world. You may not think that isn't mathematical, but it's pure pattern-recognition. You can't have a pattern of behaviour to recognise without counting outcomes, weighting frequencies, judging timespans. I'm not talking about mathematical analysis of the behaviours, I'm talking about the simple act of observing, the precursor to a theory, is mathematical in nature.

Behaviours are all mathematical, whether it is the parabolic arc of a projectile, the statistical behaviour of disease, the state machine behavior of climate.

As you are fond of repeating questions you think I didn't answer, I'll repeat one I asked at the start of this thread and you actually didn't answer. Name me a science which does not involve mathematics.

The other problem you have Dung, is always wanting the last word.

Mar 11, 2016 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


Mar 11, 2016 at 10:45 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

BYIJ - If I throw a screwed up bit of paper into the wastepaper basket from six feet away, am I using mathematics? [not a trick question - it's to understand your viewpoint.]

Mar 11, 2016 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

I think you are, both actively, and in terms of internal brain physical calculations.

For non-automatic functions like throwing a paper ball in the bin, you are estimating distance, air resistance, mass of the ball. You also understand the action of gravity on the mass. You do this so quickly and automatically that it can be mistaken for "guessing" but it's really not guessing, which would be a random distribution. It's a very rough form of mathematics without symbols.

Mar 11, 2016 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

That’s what I was saying, some time back – you might not be sitting down with a pencil and paper, but you are indulging in mathematics: assessing the distance, the weight of the object, its mass, possible air friction, probably even the chances of you actually hitting the target, so you will be calculating other options, too. When throwing, you will be calculating the trigonometry of the act, as well as the disposition and power input for all the levers involved in the action.

Mar 11, 2016 at 3:24 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

BYIJ - no it's not guessing at all. There is a huge amount of computation involved. But I am not sure that it is what I myself would term mathematics.

And I imagine that most of the computation actually involves accessing multiple cerebral look-up tables, rather than evaluating formulas. A pattern recognition system rather than number crunching. The tables will have been built up during childhood, including play. And continually refined through a lifetime of chucking things.

A colleague once pointed out to me that the human brain recognises a face in no more than around twenty sequential operations (from the time to push a button to indicate 'face recognised' and the time for a neuronal operation). So all the other operations have to be parallel, rather than sequential. Suggesting a lot of table looking-up going on. (I'm not saying that using look-up tables is not maths.)

If I use maths to throw a ball of paper into the basket, then on the same basis, my cat was using maths when for the first time she jumped from the dining table to land at zero vertical velocity on top of the grandfather clock. I'm not saying that she was not using maths - although it would not have been the same stuff we were taught at A-level.

Mar 11, 2016 at 4:20 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I'm not saying that she was not using maths - although it would not have been the same stuff we were taught at A-level.

All along I've been saying it's not the "algebra and calculus" sort of mathematics, but it is mathematics. Lookup tables are a good potential explanation of how the brain is doing the maths (I still remember log and trig tables) but as you say this is still maths. I gave the example of something you had never done before, and more often than not you are extremely accurate at it even on a first try.

The whole topic was a side tangent from the idea that maths is part of most activities which require observation or movement.

Mar 11, 2016 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

This thread reminds me (perhaps wrongly) of the story of the Englishman who was told that he was in love with his umbrella. He replied:
"Stuff and nonsense! Never heard anything so ridiculous!"
He added, after some thought:
".........Very fond of it, of course..."

Mar 11, 2016 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterosseo

Mildly surprised that given the title of the thread that Stephen Wolfram doesn't get any mention.

A New Kind of Science - The Be All and End All?

A TED on the topic from the shy retiring and modest man himself.

Mar 11, 2016 at 7:28 PM | Registered Commentertomo


At the moment it looks like you are inventing or discovering a new form of science. The problem seems to be that you are observing a physical action performed by a human as the product of mathematics when you have no proof. BYJ I am used to being ridiculed by you but I have never said that I am talking about algebra or calculus or any other kind of maths, neither have you defined what kind of maths a cat is using in Martin A's example?

Mar 11, 2016 at 7:35 PM | Registered CommenterDung


"As you are fond of repeating questions you think I didn't answer, I'll repeat one I asked at the start of this thread and you actually didn't answer. Name me a science which does not involve mathematics.
The other problem you have Dung, is always wanting the last word."

I apologise for not answering your question, it was not deliberate. If you read all my comments then you know the answer already which is that I believe that most science is not based on maths but needs maths to be developed, explained and communicated.
I do not always have to have the last word my friend and in fact I am just like you; if I do not believe you are right then I will keep saying so (but more politely than you of late hehe).

Mar 11, 2016 at 7:49 PM | Registered CommenterDung


I read the first few pages of the foundation book by Stephen Wolfram but it read too much like those other authors who say that we can learn to move planets if we just buy their books ^.^ Sorry and I will try again.

Mar 11, 2016 at 8:03 PM | Registered CommenterDung

This thread seems to have taken on a life of its own and I do not like to interrupt the flow so I will start another about the meaning of words/phrases in science.
However here is some info:
I wanted to be clever and come back armed with proofs relating to the meaning of 'Science' and 'Maths' so I bought myself three books:
Oxford Press Dictionary of Science
Oxford Press Dictionary of Physics
Oxford Press Dictionary of Mathematics
I was convinced that I would come back and win a glorious victory hehe.

Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that the dictionary of science did not define 'Science' and did not even mention mathematics.

Mar 11, 2016 at 8:32 PM | Registered CommenterDung


you would - I think.... be better starting with the assorted YouTubage.

I read quite a few reviews before going to read and look at what he's actually saying - being in front of an audience means he has to communicate and that I think improves the comprehensibility of what he's proposing. Not that I unreservedly buy in - but he's not I believe as bonkers as some would portray him...

ps In my experience many of those OUP subject specific dictionaries are a method of adding value to mashed up trees....

Mar 11, 2016 at 8:42 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Maths is the notation, not the music.

Mar 12, 2016 at 8:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterMedia Hoar

Media Hoar

I would not argue with your statement ^.^

Mar 12, 2016 at 9:08 AM | Registered CommenterDung


It is obvious that you have no respect for me and that your lack of respect is based on my lack of a degree. However I do have a certificate (well two actually), from MENSA which say that it would be impossible for you to claim that you are more intelligent than I am so touché sir.
From my point of view the problem is that you continually end discussions by simply saying (the equivalent of) "I am right and you are wrong", coupled with total confidence that you will always be right because you are BYJ. Mere mortals are required to produce proof when their claims are disputed.
You state that all Science involves mathematics and yet apart from Diogenes and Radical Rodent I am aware of nobody who agrees with you and nor can I find any support by reading about various physicists and mathematicians. Your opinion is worth no more than mine unless you back up your statements with some kind of support?
Your attitude also begs the question "why do you engage in discussion?"

Mar 12, 2016 at 9:35 AM | Registered CommenterDung

I wanted to start a new thread but found that it all belonged here.
Basic maths and science took place long before the two words were used to describe them. Science was a catch all for pretty much all human investigation and cataloguing of the world around us. Over a long period of time some areas of science became large enough to have their own titles/names. Even in the last ten or twenty years substantial chunks of existing knowledge plus much new knowledge got hived off and named as separate fields of study.
My assumption is therefore that the word "Science" was created without any suggestion that any of its fields of study must of necessity involve the use of mathematics.

Mar 12, 2016 at 12:32 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, you need to find a pastime.

Mar 12, 2016 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I have a pastime and it looks like it may be a lifelong endeavour: trying to get a straight answer to a simple question from BYJ.

Mar 12, 2016 at 3:04 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Is maths itself a science?

[Even 'the queen of sciences'?]

Mar 12, 2016 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

I found a number of scientists who said that maths was not a science plus the dictionary of science does not list it. BYJ has not suggested that maths is a science.

Mar 12, 2016 at 6:05 PM | Registered CommenterDung

BYJ has screwed what was a good discussion on this thread and I only started it because he made it clear that I was not wanted on his own thread about a repository of sceptic science. BYJ has refused to answer perfectly reasonable questions and behaves like a second rate troll.
Put up or shut up BYJ.

Mar 12, 2016 at 6:59 PM | Registered CommenterDung