Archive for March 14, 2011


March 14, 2011

Have you ever spent too much time reading about the Philosophy of Mathematics?  If so, you may have come across the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis first described by Max Tegmark in his paper Is “the theory of everything” merely the ultimate ensemble theory?.  Tegmark postulates that “Everything that exists mathematically exists physically”, and his paper can be seen as a modern defense of Mathematical Platonism.

After reading articles like the ones previously mentioned, I can’t help but spend a few moments, while taking notes in Physics class, pondering about the implications of modeling a physical system with mathematical equations.    When my professor asked the class to figure out where to aim our hypothetical catapult so that we could hit a hypothetical falling object, I entertain the idea of solving the equations in such a way that the constant of gravity is the variable I could manipulate.  This is certainly possible, but proves to be a mostly useless endeavor because manipulating gravity is beyond the means of most scientists.  However, if Max Tegmark and his Radical Platonism cronies were to see this post, they would assure me that if I can represent it mathematically, then is surely exists in some alternate reality.

Other Univserses with differing amounts of dimensions.

When I’m presented with these kinds of unexpected assertions about reality, I try to speculate what strange consequences could be implied.  If I were to derive an equation for the catapult problem in Physics class that was absolutely perfect in modeling the system, could I then alter reality by changing the physical constant of gravity?  Because surely reality has to match my perfect mathematical model.  This isn’t quite what the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis claims, but I like to direct my speculations towards outcomes that include gaining super powers.

The most important part of a super hero costume.

By now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with Astroarcane.  Writing from the perspective of Milo forces me to consider how a Wizard accomplishes feats of Magic.  I imagine that magical theory is very similar to my modified Mathematical Universe Hypothesis.  Magical metaphysics exist in a pure form in some higher realm (the ether), and dictate how reality behaves for all the inhabitants of the universe.  Wizards can create formulas that allow them to temporarily manipulate reality, which is what makes it Magic instead of Science.  The better a formula models reality, the more control a Wizard would have.  No wonder Wizards spend so much time reading!  Consider the advice of Master Strub, “Remember class, balancing the input of Mana with the expected output of the formula will improve the working efficiency of the Runes.”

So the next time you’re sitting in Physics class imagine you’re studying equations for the purposes of manipulating reality.  Lectures will be a lot more engaging and you’ll feel less awkward at graduation when you have to wear those funny robes.

(Personally, I feel that mathematics models reality, and that reality follows it own natural laws that exists separate from mathematics.  Simply put, mathematics is a human invention, albeit a very useful one.  I think of science and mathematics as constantly improving the model to be closer and closer to reality, which is in some ways the inverse of Tegmark.)

- Brian