Mathematics is a Hoax

This thought has been running around in my head for a few weeks: Mathematics is a hoax. It is a man-made construct, a product of wishful thinking on the part of humans who want to be able to measure and define things absoloutely. Certainly mathematics is useful for describing relationships between things, but I’ve noticed that the universe rarely deals with the sorts of perfect geometric forms and numerical certainty that we seem to assume exist. The universe seems defined by curvature rather than straight lines. In fact, I can’t think of any case where nature has produced a straight line, a square, a triangle, a cube. Spheres and ellipticals are the rule, not the exception. Pi is a defining constant, and its depths are infinite, and thus never truly absolute.

I’m not saying this as some grandiloquent denial of the discipline; it’s just one of those ideas in the night that makes me wonder. I also have an irrational distrust of protractors. I still have a hard time figuring out how one starting point can have multiple ending points without the resulting lines being the same line (neither intersecting nor being parallel) for at least a while. I think that’s where the uncertainty starts: curvature. The universe would make so much more sense if it were all straight lines and perfect ratios. I suspect many mathematicians think it is.

2 thoughts on “Mathematics is a Hoax”

  1. Strangely enough, I pondered many of the same things while listening to an abridged audio version of “A Beautiful Mind” a couple of weeks ago (haven’t seen the movie). In some respects I don’t find Nash’s biography, particularly the details of his mental illness, all that extraordinary when considered in light of the fact that he was a mathematician. Calculus and discrete mathematics almost drove me mad … I can only image what would have happened if I had actually comprehended it!

  2. Certainly genius, whether it be in mathematics or art or what have you, has often been linked to madness. What’s sad about the movie is that it bears almost no resemblance to the book or Nash’s life. It’s a great movie, though, as a work of fiction.

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