The top posts of 2007: number 5

Over the holiday period, the physics arxiv blog is re-running the most popular blogs (by page views) of 2007.

Mathematics: the foundation of reality
2 October

“Our universe is not just described by mathematics — it is mathematics.” That’s the conclusion of Max “Peg Leg” Tegmark, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But he ain’t nuts, even if he sounds as if he’s a couple of planets short of a solar system.

His argument is actually kinda convincing. In a paper that he says is a director’s cut of an article that he wrote for New Scientist which in turn was based on an earlier paper of his called The Mathematical Universe, he starts with a question: if we accept that the universe has a reality independent of ourselves, then what sort of reality is it?

Peg Leg Tegmark argues that it has to be free of any kinda of physical or cultural bias so that it is the same for all aliens wherever they may be in the universe. The only logical system that fits this description is the one that underlies mathematics, he says. Therefore the universe is mathematics.

Peg Leg Tegmark reckons that this line of thought leads to a number of curious predictions that are actually testable by observation. F0r example, he says that a measurement of the distribution of dark energy within our universe would be a decent test.

Just how we might make that measurement and what exactly we would be looking for is harder to say.

Still we can hardly expect the trifling details behind the actual observation and measurement of the universe to trouble a thinker like Tegmark. All in all, his paper makes a fine addition to the general framework of untestable philosophy cosmology.

Ref: Shut Up and Calculate

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