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This week's show with astrophysicist Mario Livio explores, amongst other things, how math is implicated in the nature of the world. The Nobel physicist and mathematician Eugene Wigner, who wrote "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Science," argued that math is so successful in predicting events in physics that it could not be a coincidence. Even on our previous show, "Asteroids, Stars, and the Love of God," the astronomers pointed out the complexity in declaring whether math is discovered or invented.

While producing these interviews, I happened upon the video above. The visualization helped me by filling in some of the specific examples in nature that mathematicians can easily visualize on a daily basis. It shows how three mathematical concepts, including the golden ratio, translate into simple objects in nature.

What I really love is the about page, which deconstructs how the Fibonacci series and golden ratio translate into the spiral of a shell, and the spirals within a sunflower. When listening to Livio, what examples of math explaining the cosmos came to mind for you?

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6 Comments

Here's one of my favorite explanations of just the sort you're looking for, again by way of my old hero Carl Sagan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... . After seeing this as a boy on Carl's PBS series "Cosmos", I just had to know more, so I picked up a copy of Abott's "Flatland", and soon thereafter a copy of a book taking the next logical step, namely Dionys Burger's sequel "Sphereland", the lot of which gave me a nice intuitive feel for what might be the case, what might be possible, given additional spatial dimensions. Enjoy :-)

Oh I can't resist. Here's another favorite example of mine that discusses mathematics in physics, at least in part, by way of yet another old hero of mine, namely the physicist Richard Feynman. If you've got 50 minutes to spare for a really fascinating program, sneak a peek at "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out": http://video.google.com/videop...

[Response to Scott Inglett's post] I appreciated the recommendation. I did invest 50 minutes, and found the time was well spent: Feynman's various musings and reminiscences were fascinating and quite enjoyable. For some reason, though, I assumed that the clip would shed more light on the spiritual questions raised in this forum. Imagine my surprise when, in the last five minutes or so, Feynman dispensed with all religious belief systems, defining them as "too small" for the vast reality he has helped to chart. If only you had warned us! For the occasional "Speaking of Faith" fan (e.g., me) who might have hoped for, say, some further insight with respect to the issue of a "divine mathematics," this particular viewpoint from a pre-eminent theoretical physicist might just be a bit of a bummer. (Probably only to be expected, though -- why do so many of the "best" Christians and Jews these days turn out to be secular humanists?)

Like the complex universe we occupy, our lives can seem like random chaotic courses of choice and chance. And yet, once we glimpse the divine mathematics holding this existence together, we see that it is nothing of the sort. Life is an exquisitely patterned, divinely layered matrix of the holiest order. We, like the universe, are a beautifully blossoming Fibonacci sequence, a miraculous golden curl of Phi, a story with no end, as infinite as the number Pi. A perfectly imperfect figment of Divine imagination.~Lori Yang

so is math discovered or is it the invention of the human mind? for some reason i was reminded of the final paragraph in Annie Dillard's book, For The Time Being ~ I truly appreciate the the unedited version of the program with Mario Livio; to borrow a mathematical term, the conversation and ideas were "elegant"

This brought tears to my eyes; living in such a beautiful, but so mysterious, universe, with so much we can know, and yet, so much unable to be known, well, it just brings me to Faith. Have you seen the Symphony of Science vidoes--Richard Feynman is in one of those: http://www.symphonyofscience.c...

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