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30 (de) vizualizări4 paginiIs Math A Science

Aug 03, 2016

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Is Math A Science

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30 (de) vizualizări

Is Math A Science

© All Rights Reserved

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Introduction

The demarcation issue of what is and isnt Science was not of great interest in the pre-modern

times. It has only evolved due to the increasing number of subjects in the modern world being

studied in the way that the umbrella term Science once referred to.

This has led to the need for classifying and separating Science from pseudo-Science.

Many of the pre-modern topics are now unanimously agreed upon as pseudo Science such as study

of Religion, Philosophy, Astrology, Vastu-Shastra et cetera. They were found to not obey any of the

many popularly agreed definitions 1 of Science (more on that later).

None of the practices and beliefs that these topics preached were found to be provable,

experimentally reproducible or even observable in nature. And are characterized by exaggerated and

contradictory claims. And thus they were easy to discard as Science.

But the oldest topic in the history of mankind, Mathematics, and the newest topic of the modern era,

Computer Science, have still not found a home on either side of the boundary. But why is that?

Definition of Science

Before moving on to that question, let us first (try to) define Science.

The clearly accepted winner in todays world is called the Scientific Method.

It proposes that scientific fields are defined by the presence of scientific theories that are

falsifiable, inductive generalizations that survive comparison with reality and that those theories

lead to paradigms, foundational principles based on empirical evidence that concisely summarize

fields of knowledge and that produce consensus among a fields practitioners. 2

As discussed later, some part of Maths does follow this rendition of Science, but theres also

mathematics that quantifies experimental evidence, and then theres mathematics that expresses

theories.

Science, or knowledge, is the need to find truth. But truth may exist not only in nature,

surrounding us, but in the abstract of it too. Thus I think that the definition of Science needs to be

broadened to encompass truth in the abstract.

1. Science need to be clearly defined before a conclusion about Is Math a science? can be

reached.

2. http://arachnoid.com/scientific_paradigm/resources/scientific_paradigm.pdf

Mathematics as a Science

Mathematics has evolved greatly from how it was studied thousands of years ago from counting and

calculation to systematic study of shapes and physical objects, apart from its most obvious

emerging role as a tool for other subjects including natural science, medicine, economics to even

social sciences. It is agreeably indispensable.

But what is it?

Mathematics has been called the language of nature by not one but many famous philosophers

and scientists including Galileo Galilei who said The universe cannot be read until we have

learned the language 4

This is what some of of the other great minds of our society have had to say for Mathematics:

Aristotle defined mathematics as "the science of quantity" 4

Albert Einstein stated that "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not

certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." 4

Carl Friedrich Gauss referred to mathematics as "the Queen of the Sciences" 4

Benjamin Pierce said that mathematics is "the science that draws necessary conclusions" 4

Iris Runge, german applied mathematician aptly notices that ..no consensus has been

reached about whether mathematics is a natural science, a branch of the humanities, or an art

form. 3

It maybe because of the emergence of so many branches of Mathematics that it has become hard to

agree on its definition.

I am convinced of the view that Mathematics is an abstraction of the real world objects through

symbols, of actions through mathematical operations and so on. Atleast some part of it is, involving

the branch knows as Applied Mathematics. Unarguably, the branch of Abstract Mathematics and the

subject of complex numbers can not be seen in the real world.

This extract from the Wikipedia page on Mathematics 4 explains this well,

The history of mathematics can be seen as an ever-increasing series of abstractions. The

first abstraction, which is shared by many animals, was probably that of numbers: the

realization that a collection of two apples and a collection of two oranges (for example)

have something in common, namely quantity of their members.

3. Iris Runge: A Life at the Crossroads of Mathematics, Science, and Industry-Renate Tobies, pp. 9

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematics

Not all math is detached from the natural world as it may seem. It is only the symbols and the letters

that are a figment of humans imagination, but not the idea of Math itself. There are a lot of

examples from history of Science where things were discovered through equations long before they

were verified by empirical observation (eg. Neptune). The fibonacci series is a famous example that

is shown to manifest in the nature. It is said that it was discovered by observing the offsprings of

rabbits. Im sure the rabbits arent familiar with the idea of sequences and series that they would

decide to follow it in their mating process.

But it is also true that Mathematical theories are very different in a sense from Scientific theories.

Though some do follow suit. One very simple example would be Pythagoras. He theorized that the

squares that can be put alongside two smaller sides of a right triangle can be rearranged and put

alongside the largest side of the triangle. Its possible he observed this in the nature from, say,

wooden pieces lying around? We dont know.

Then, this theorem, like any other scientific theorem, was verified that it held true for every right

angled triangle they found in nature or could draw on paper, its statement improved from the

colloquial statement of Pythagoras to the algebraic form we all know today, found complex proofs

from rearrangement to differentials. Even Einstein discovered 5,6 a proof for the simplest theorem

known since two thousand years ago.

Further, we used this theorem to discover others like Pythagorean triplets, Pythagorean

trigonometric identity, and even applied it to three dimensions 7.

Hence, this theorem can be said to have followed the Scientific Method completely.

Theres a very cloudy misconception surrounding this term. Computers are the result of the intertwingling of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. But that isnt what Computer Science is

about. Computers are just a tool for the scientific part of computer science which is Computation.

Computation is nothing but a subset of mathematics.

Edsger Dijkstra summed it up best: Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy

is about telescopes. 8

Computer Science is often regarded as soft Science because it doesnt deal directly with nature

like other sciences. Its artificial in a sense. In computer science, the goal is not to figure out the

answers to factual questions, but rather to figure out how to get answers. The procedure is the

solution. While scientists want to figure out what is, computer scientists want to know how to 8.

Does Computer Science in a strict manner follow the Scientific Method? If we consider the method

minus observing the nature i.e. creating hypothesis, generalizing it, verifying (in the abstract),

improving, and applying it to create more hypothesis, I think it does fairly well. In the end it relies

on whether Mathematics crosses the boundary or not.

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagorean_theorem#Einstein.27s_proof_by_dissection_without_rearrangement

6. Note that I say discovered. Artists conjure art but mathematics, like Science, is intertwined with

nature. So, like truths and laws of nature, it can only be discovered.

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagorean_theorem#Solid_Geometry

8. http://www.jonahkagan.me/projects/writing/cs-essay.html

I would like to close out with this comic from early days of xkcd.

Randall Munroe is a humorous guy, but what he does best is provoke thought.

Permalink : http://xkcd.com/435/

Author:

VISHAL GAUBA

(SNU ID) 1410110501

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