## Tracking the World's Great Unsolved Math Mysteries 221

Posted
by
samzenpus

from the another-piece-of-pi dept.

from the another-piece-of-pi dept.

coondoggie writes

*"Some math problems are as old as the wind, experts say, and many remain truly unsolved. But a new open source-based site from the American Institute of Mathematics looks to help track work done and solve long-standing and difficult math problems. The Institute, along with the National Science Foundation, has opened the AIM Problem Lists site to offer an organized and annotated collection of unsolved problems, and previously unsolved problems, in a specialized area of mathematics research. The problem list provides a snapshot of the current state of research in a particular research area, letting experts track new developments, and newcomers gain a perspective on the subject."*
## Check out the Collatz Conjecture... (Score:5, Interesting)

## Re: (Score:3, Funny)

WHOA... Gotta love that little meme..

If the starting value n = 27 is chosen, the sequence, listed and graphed below, takes 111 steps,

climbing to over 9,000before descending to 1.{ 27, 82, 41, 124, 62, 31, 94, 47, 142, 71, 214, 107, 322, 161, 484, 242, 121, 364, 182, 91, 274, 137, 412, 206, 103, 310, 155, 466, 233, 700, 350, 175, 526, 263, 790, 395, 1186, 593, 1780, 890, 445, 1336, 668, 334, 167, 502, 251, 754, 377, 1132, 566, 283, 850, 425, 1276, 638, 319, 958, 479, 1438, 719, 2158, 1079, 3238, 1619, 4858, 2429, 7288, 3644, 1822, 911, 2734, 1367, 4102, 2051, 6154, 3077,

9232, 4616, 2308, 1154, 577, 1732, 866, 433, 1300, 650, 325, 976, 488, 244, 122, 61, 184, 92, 46, 23, 70, 35, 106, 53, 160, 80, 40, 20, 10, 5, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1 }## Re: (Score:2)

I noticed that too... LOL.

That conjecture is interesting and simple enough to be understandable without being a math person. I looked at the wiki article for the above mentioned Riemann Hypothesis, and that's a bit too complex for me.

## Re: (Score:2)

That conjecture is interesting and simple enough to be understandable without being a math person. I looked at the wiki article for the above mentioned Riemann Hypothesis, and that's a bit too complex for me.

Yeah same here, not really a math person but you gotta love how simple it would be to write a program to play around with it. Who knows, if you picked the right starting number you might even prove it wrong! but I'm not really sure how one would ever be able to prove it right!

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

If you like life-stealers like that, you might want to check out Project Euler: http://projecteuler.net/ [projecteuler.net]

But don't say I didn't warn you!

## Re: (Score:2)

This is something Ruby is DESIGNED for.

http://pastebin.com/m25fc9de4 [pastebin.com]

I popped this out in a few minutes, but if it can be modified to save every valid Collatz number it finds and not recalculate anything at all it can go pretty fast for very little code and eat all your RAM in the process :)

## Re: (Score:2)

Oh, I should mention that I mash very large random numbers into this ruby script and it doesn't overflow. Instead it gets a stack error...

So small update, nonrecursive edition:

http://pastebin.com/m29c38ed3 [pastebin.com]

It worked fine for a 40+ digit whole number pasted about 20 times...

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

http://pastebin.com/m67281bd6 [pastebin.com] :D I have nothing better to do. Optimized to save known values and not recalculate them.

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

"Very little code"? Bah! Kids these days...

This [pastebin.com] will run on any system where `dc` is installed.

## Re:Check out the Collatz Conjecture... (Score:4, Interesting)

One of my math teachers once showed me the problem. The teacher knew I'm decent at math and would occasionally show me interesting or unusual problems. The interesting part is, the teacher told me to have a try at proving the proposition of this problem, without telling me that it's an unsolved problem. So I had a good amount of fun trying to prove this. Of course, it's not like I could make a proof with my high school knowledge, but it challenged my mind and was a fun thing to do. And had the teacher told me right away that it's an unsolved problem, I wouldn't have had the motivation to think about it, knowing beforehand that I wouldn't be able to find a proof.

That was one of my educational highlights, though. Way to provide a mental challenge!

I'm still amazed by how part of the problem's beauty is that it's easy to understand the actual proposition. That isn't true for most unsolved problems, after all. Take the recently proven Poincaré conjecture, just understanding what it states takes some math knowledge, though it has a nice approximation in layman's terms. As for the example of the Hodge conjecture [wikipedia.org], I probably don't know half the mathematical concepts required to understand the problem.

## Re: (Score:2)

Actually, if you believe this guy [arxiv.org], it's not only complex beyond imagination, it's complex beyond any possible finite representation, that is, it's unprovable.

## Why 3n? (Score:2)

Why is the alternative to halving, 3n+1? Why 3? I'm curious. If it were just n+1 it seems like it would converge to 1 pretty quickly (since most non-even numbers become even if you add 1).

10 gives you:

10 5 6 3 4 2 1

100 gives you:

100 50 25 26 13 14 7 8 4 2 1

What if it were 4n+1? Then 10 gives you:

10 5 21 85 341 1365 5461 21845 uh oh

What if it were 5n+1? Then 10 gives you:

10 5 26 13 76 38 19 96 48 24 12 6 3 16 8 4 2 1

## I have this proof. (Score:5, Funny)

## Re:I have this proof. (Score:4, Funny)

try twitter, it goes up to and includes 140 chars

## Re: (Score:2)

Use a real website, char limits are stu

## Re: (Score:2)

But the attention span doesn't change.

## Re: (Score:3, Funny)

I have this wonderful proof for this conjecture, but unfortunately the 80 char limit for sig in slashdot is too small for it.

And thus was born the famous "140Mandak262Jamuna's Last Theorem" which was not fully proven until 2367 AD.

## Sadly... (Score:5, Funny)

## Re: (Score:3)

You need one of these [wikipedia.org] to get a good aproximation.

## Re:Sadly... (Score:4, Funny)

## If you really want to run into trouble (Score:5, Informative)

See http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/more-on-mathematical-diseases/ [wordpress.com] for unsolved problems which are all really simple and also really addicting to think about. For many of these, the best way to stop thinking about one of them is to start thinking about another.

I'm actually a bit puzzled as to why this is a Slashdot article. If I wanted to point to something new in the way people are doing math I'd point to Math Overflow http://mathoverflow.net/ [mathoverflow.net] where many professional mathematicians, grad students and others are active. It is essentially a centralized system for people to post math questions and get math answers from people who know. It is very cool. It also is highly addictive to read.

## Massively collaborative "Polymath" efforts (Score:5, Interesting)

As of about a year ago, a new kind of collaborative math project known as "polymath" is emerging. These research projects are completely open for any interested scholar to drop in and make contributions to the problem at hand. The technical infrastructure is based on well-known tools such as wikis and forum discussions

The very first such project successfully explored a new approach to the density Hales-Jewett thorem--a significant problem in combinatorics--in about six weeks of effort, with a fully preserved record of about a thousand contributions from dozens of participants.

See Polymath Wiki [michaelnielsen.org] for the details. This new contribution from the AIM will provide a focus point for such efforts and encourage similar massively collaborative projects.

And of course, the emerging field of computer-verified mathematics [vdash.org] is also dependent on massive collaboration, in order to translate existing results into a fully-formalized form that computes will understand and verify as correct. A wiki-based project could be a great help there as well.

## why not hide them in video games so we can (Score:5, Funny)

why not hide them in video games so we can get more people to look at them.

## Re: (Score:2)

---

You enter a dark room. Inside the room is a large door with the words "Entrance to the second level" scratched in the paintwork. Below the door handle is a riddle.

"Extend the Kronecker-Weber theorem on abelian extensions of the rational numbers to any base number field."

## Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (Score:3, Interesting)

This encyclopedia has proven very useful for me in that I have avoided 'solving' many problems with it.

## Meh. (Score:4, Insightful)

Mathematically modelling the brain would seem to be a very trivial problem. The problem is that there's a lot of brain to model. I've posted (admittedly non-rigorous) mathematical models of the brain on Slashdot before, but narry a grant check from it. Bah.

Computational fluid dynamics for foams, liquid crystals, et al, isn't any harder than for anything else. The equations are chaotic by nature, but chaotic systems can be well-behaved on aggregate under certain conditions. CFD as generally done relies on some specifically hand-picked special case or cases being universally true. They never are, which is why most CFD differs from how systems actually behave in practice.

If you were to treat CFD as a problem in chaos theory, rather than as isolated collections of imperfect examples of special cases, there would be no problem. It is always when engineers try to take shortcuts and oversimplify the maths to make it easy on themselves that they run into problems. They should be locked up for their own safety. If you want to really annoy them, lock them up with some airgel foam.

The problem with chaotic systems is that the system is sensitive to initial conditions, which means the only way to get "correct" results is to use infinite precision and zero step sizes. This isn't useful, but is a good way to annoy experts in CFD.

This leaves two options - use very very big, very very fast computers (the option used by F1 teams), or find an equivalent problem you CAN solve (the idea behind transforms).

Ok, does chaos look like a good place to use transforms? If you could identify and classify the Strange Attractors in the system, can you do anything useful? Probably not, at least not in the "solving the problem" sense. Chaos is fully deterministic, but it is utterly unpredictable. The only solution is the whole solution.

What knowing the Strange Attractors might tell you is how to vary the precision and step-size to get the best results for a given level of compute power. But it's going to be all raw horsepower from thereon out.

The best way to invest money on such work is to design a co-processor that performs a handful of fairly high-level maths functions directly (optimized purely for speed, not physical or logical space) so that you can do Navier-Stokes almost at the level of raw hardware rather than through clunky software. Then cluster the living daylights out of the co-processor.

It's necessary to optimize commodity hardware for space, because chip real-estate is expensive. However, if you're building what is basically a SOP (single-operation processor) for a dedicated market that can afford things like Earth Simulator, the only time you care about space is when it impacts speed.

Ideally, if the speed of light wasn't an issue, you'd want each bit in the output to be produced by wholly independent logic, duplicating the input bits as necessary to accomplish this. In practice, you'd probably want to start with that conceptually but in reality have something that was somewhere between that and a highly compressed form. Too parallel and the delays in communication exceed the benefits from the parallelization.

But this is all obvious. Anyone here who has done multi-threading or any other form of parallelization knows about synchronization issues and communication overheads. It's even one of the biggest chunks of any course on the subject of parallel design. There's nothing new there, certainly nothing "unsolved".

But, yeah, a well-designed Navier-Stokes co-processor would likely give you greater accuracy and greater performance than the modern pure software solutions. Especially those using ugly protocols to do the communications.

If Intel can conceptulalize 80 Pentium 4 cores on a wafer, it would seem reasonable enough to imagine modern fabrication methods being able to put at least a couple of hundred dedicated Navier-Stokes processors into the same space. Since the input for an iteration would be based on output from that and other processors, there's no

## Re: (Score:2)

<asshole>

Mathematically modelling the brain would seem to be a very trivial problem. The problem is that there's a lot of brain to model. I've posted (admittedly non-rigorous) mathematical models of the brain on Slashdot before, but narry a grant check from it. Bah.

You must be either one of the greatest geniuses of all time, or uninformed on the topic of neurological modeling. People doing real research generally tend not to waste their time trolling Slashdot to find insightful theories, so you might want to try to get it published in a journal instead.

If you were to treat CFD as a problem in chaos theory, rather than as isolated collections of imperfect examples of special cases, there would be no problem. It is always when engineers try to take shortcuts and oversimplify the maths to make it easy on themselves that they run into problems.

What specific treatment, pray tell, would suffice as a "one algorithm fits all" approach to solving Navier-Stokes (let alone when mixed with extra behavior like crystal growth, chemical/thermal diffusion

## Re: (Score:2)

People doing useful and interesting research frequently post on Slashdot, so I don't see what your problem is. It doesn't take a genius to mathematically model a brain and that isn't something people have bothered much with doing.

Some things people have tried to do are build models of compartments of the brain (bad idea), simulations of some poorly-specified upper-level functions of the brain (even worse idea) and discrete/binary simulations of individual neurons assuming them to be stateless and/or with a

## Re:Meh. (Score:5, Funny)

Mathematically modelling the brain would seem to be a very trivial problem.Yours perhaps...

## Strange Attractors *could* be useful (Score:2)

That is not entirely correct.

First strange attractor [wikipedia.org] is usually embedded into lower-dimension manifold. Reducing dimensionality can make problem a lot more tractable, especially if original system was infinitely-dimensional (like Navier-Sto

## Re: (Score:2)

Ok, I would agree with all that. (I can't mod you informative for obvious and non-chaotic reasons.)

## Re: (Score:2)

Mathematically modelling the brain would seem to be a very trivial problem. The problem is that there's a lot of brain to model. I've posted (admittedly non-rigorous) mathematical models of the brain on Slashdot before, but narry a grant check from it. Bah.

You sound like a pure mathematician. (You know what I mean: "a solution has been shown to exist, so it is trivial".)

The problem is that the brain is a non-linear system on many scales, and it's not clear that the nature of the non-linearity is the same at all scales. This makes even approximate modeling rather difficult. And there's a lot of detail, and a lot of different scales. Right now, it's easier to let poets and psychologists write the higher-level models than to derive them either numerically or ana

## sp-called experts steal work (Score:2)

So when a promising idea comes along, the "expert" can follow up and hopefully get credit for the solution. I see this is the workplace and on the net in various places. Technical discussion forums are lurked by "experts" in industry who look for ideas without contributing anything to the discussion. Some people don't mind, others don't realize, and others are bothered

## Hilbert problems (Score:3, Interesting)

## This is a great idea. (Score:3, Insightful)

This is a great idea. It whould promote more interest in the specific problems and unsolved math problems in general. Besides, more collaboration should result in better research.

## Here's mine... (Score:2, Interesting)

I so want it to be true. Quantum computing is our best hope right now of shedding light on this problem.

And it's not on their list...

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:5, Interesting)

Some say math is discovered. Others say it is invented. You are one of the latter.

## Re: (Score:3)

If it is invented, the problem didn't exist before the wind.

In either case, the problem isn't older than the wind.

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:5, Insightful)

First of all "as old as the wind" is just an expression means "really fricken old". It's obviously not meant to be taken literally, so get off your high horse.

Secondly,

If it is discovered, the solution already exists and the problem was solved before wind existed

Just because a solution exists, does not mean you have solved the problem. Think of it this way. You are looking through your telescope at night up at the stars and you notice a new star you have never seen before. You look at all the star-charts you can find and realize that no one has ever documented this star. You've just discovered it.

But you are saying that you did not discover the star, since the star already existed. Of course the solutions already exist for these math problems. However, discovery is the act of documenting an observation (ie, someone has to say "this is the answer"), so while they exist, no one has yet discovered them.

## Re: (Score:2)

Solutions to problems can also be invented in Mathematics.

Take the real numbers. There are several ways to describe their "continuity", or the idea that any infinite decimal fraction always denotes a well-defined real number.

For instance we have Bolzano-Weierstrass, we have Dirichlet, we have Cauchy. All try to tackle the same problem, and from an axiomatic point of view they are equivalent: Given one, we can prove the others.

The fact that all those approaches are equivalent, was surely discovered. But the

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:5, Funny)

Some say math is discovered. Others say it is invented.

And still others (especially those in grade school and high school) say that math should neither have been invented nor discovered.

## Re: (Score:2)

Or a liberal arts major.

## Disambiguation reveals the simple answer (Score:3, Interesting)

Those things which we use mathematics to describe (relationships of every variety) are discovered (by observation and experience)

The language with which we describe them (symbols, axioms, and rules of transformation) is invented (and refined over time, as a quick review of the history of mathematics will promptly reveal)

Additional products of this language (logical consequences of the axioms we have invented) are subsequently discovered.

We equivocate the term "Mathematics" to mean all three of these things

## Re: (Score:2)

Some say math is discovered. Others say it is invented. You are one of the latter.

And then there's the one about there being two kinds of people: those that divide things into two groups and those that don't. :P

Maybe it's a bit of both. Non-euclidian geometry seems inventive, pi, seems discoverable.

## Re: (Score:2)

The former are Socratists, the latter are Aristotelians. The first group figures there must be an original, perfect form of everything; a blueprint, a divine thing. The second group are just nerds.

## Re: (Score:3)

Linkie [wikipedia.org]. Socrates questions his victims, but only in a subjective way, that is, only about their opinions and perceptions. His view of the world below the veneer of Hellenic city-state culture was based on the cave of shadows.

## Re: (Score:2)

Even math is discovered, math

problemscould only be around as long as there are people for whom it's a problem. Math may have been around since the big bang (indeed, perhaps the universe is nothing but a mathematical construct), but math problems haven't.## Strange point (Score:3, Interesting)

Julius Shaneson and Sylvain Cappell claimed to have solve a famous problem about counting the lattice points in a circle. It's been out for years, even earlier than this arxiv paper:

http://arxiv.org/abs/math/0702613 [arxiv.org]

Thing is, even though it is a famous problem, no one cares enough to check. So this notion of "famous" is shaky.

## Re:Strange point (Score:4, Informative)

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:4, Interesting)

## Re: (Score:2)

The fact that mathematics, even very abstract mathematics, accurately models the natural world is a deep mystery.

That depends on your worldview.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:3)

It seems to me that calling it a

mysteryimplies you're not really surewhymath can accurately model the natural world.So, if you can explain it, it wouldn't be a mystery.

It seems that many scientists and mathematicians were confident that it could accurately model the natural world for one reason: it was "designed."

Basically, what I'm getting at is this: if your worldview includes a Creator/Designer/whatever of some sort (i.e., God) who created/designed and/or sustains the "natural" world, then it is actu

## Re: (Score:2)

It shouldn't be a mystery because we created it to model the world around us.

## Re: (Score:2)

It's not a deep mystery at all. It's by design. We chose our axioms to resemble what we observe. Just take Euclid axioms of the plane geometry, or natural number axioms (like Peano's), etc.

It's no wonder then that what we construct out of them resembles what is out there (at least somewhat). Other modeling problems try to be even stricter and model the observed phenomena even closer than axioms could ever hope to describe.

## Re: (Score:2)

We chose our axioms to resemble what we observe.

You don't hang around mathematicians, do you? Go play with a number theorist and you'll realize how wrong you are.

It's certainly true that some mathematicians are motivated by modeling the world. But many, and perhaps most, aren't. They'll freely construct mathematical objects that have little basis in the physical world.

## Re: (Score:2)

And then, upon playing with them for long enough, we discover that they actually do model the world in some manner or another (and then we are disappointed). It's certainly all the evidence (though, not proof) I need that maths is discovered, not invented.

--an algebraic number theorist in training

## Re: (Score:2)

Didn't the concept of numbers and their properties arise out of observed reality? Is it so mysterious that even the airiest of results would be reflect in the reality from which it was derived?

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

Why so mind boggling? Quaternions are a straight forward construct from simpler ideas that are well formed representations of reality.

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

Seems to me if you're using them in your physical theory then they have as much of a physical role (I'm not saying that they have to correspond to some observable quantity though) as say a symmetry group or any other mathematical object you use.

## Re: (Score:2)

Like I said in another post, I'm a pure mathie (masters in it), and minor in CS as well.

## Re: (Score:2)

Ok, I only have masters in pure math from one of the world's most respected universities when it comes to math, and solid background in physics and computer science among other things :D.

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:4, Interesting)

YES! This has long been acknowledged [wikipedia.org] by people who we usually assume know a little bit about the physical world. It seems reasonable to me, but demonstrating why it is reasonable is another thing.

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:4, Interesting)

That wiki has a whiff of the tiger who said "It's well I'm named such, as I'm so fierce." Arithmetic, Geometry, Analysis, arose from careful observation of the universe. It's not really a mystery that they are well applied to the universe.

## Re: (Score:2)

OK, I just gotta link to xkcd here: http://xkcd.com/55/ [xkcd.com]

## Re: (Score:2)

Mathematics is a rigorous way to describe the relationships between things. In so far as physics is describable, there's no great mystery that a branch of mathematics arises to describe it, so that we may more precisely and unambiguously understand what happens in the universe.

But of course, you're wrong about accurate models. What physics now tells us is that we can very accurately model exactly how the universe cannot be modeled mathematically.

## Re: (Score:2)

The fact that mathematics, even very abstract mathematics, accurately models the natural world is a deep mystery.

Of course, you have to pick your maths to find one that models the world.

When I add boxes of apples, they don't happen to conform to modulo 2 arithmetic. Why? 3D space doesn't conform to Euclidean geometry, even though for hundreds of years people thought it did. Why?

There are different arithmetics and geometries. Maybe I could design a world which uses a different arithmetic, or a different geometry to our world. Why does our world make the mathematical choices that it does?

What mathematics the real world

## Re: (Score:2)

Mathematics can model anything at all that is a logical possibility. Physics is necessarily a subset of that.

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:5, Interesting)

I would claim that the ratio of a circle to its diameter is independent of being observed, or indeed there being an observer. I would also claim that the laws of geometry, probability and topology are universal and also do not depend on the existence of observers, let alone their ability to perform maths.

Radioactive decay follows an exponential decay curve. It will have done so long before anyone could add, let alone handle irrational numbers like e.

This puts me firmly in the category of maths being discovered, not invented. Mathematical tools, however, are invented and not discovered. I consider these to be quite different. If you were to imagine an alien lifeform on some distant world, they'll have an identical math but their experience of it, the way they treat it, the systems they use, those will all be unique to them because those are inventions and not anything fundamental to maths itself.

In a simpler example of the same concept, we can use ancient Greek maths today even though they didn't have a concept of zero and had (to modern eyes) very alien views on the way maths worked. We can use ancient Greek maths because the results don't depend on any of that.

We can use Roman results, too, despite the fact that their numbering system doesn't really follow a number base in any way we'd understand. It doesn't matter, though, because the important stuff all takes place below such superficial details. Even more remarkable, we can read many of the numbers written in Linear A, even though we can't read the language itself and know very little about the culture or people.

None of this would be possible if what lay under maths was invented. It's very hard to rediscover lost inventions, as there's many ways of producing similar results. But when you can rediscover lost number systems with comparative ease - well, doesn't that tell you there has to be something a bit more universal to it?

(I won't get into parrots being able to discover the notion of zero, but it's again pertinent as it's an example of a universality that transcends the invented language it's described in.)

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:5, Interesting)

I would claim that the ratio of a circle to its diameter is independent of being observed, or indeed there being an observer. I would also claim that the laws of geometry, probability and topology are universal and also do not depend on the existence of observers, let alone their ability to perform maths.Since the existance of a perfect circle depends on the thoughts of an observer, the ratio of the diameter to the circumference of such an object must depend on there being an observer. Nature can produce approximate circles, but not perfect ones.

Radioactive decay follows an exponential decay curve. It will have done so long before anyone could add, let alone handle irrational numbers like e."Exponential decay curve" and "irrational numbers" are two different concepts. (1/2)^N is an exponential decay curve -- which defines the half-life of a radioactive substance. For no integer value of N is the result "irrational".

This puts me firmly in the category of maths being discovered, not invented.Right destination, wrong reason.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re:Math cannot exist before wind. (Score:4, Interesting)

Ideal circles do not exist. Before human beings they didn't exist, and they still do not exist. We define them. Can you think of a perfect circle? If you can you must have perfect visual processing in your brain. This is a hard problem I admit, and I'm not going to pretend my answer is absolutely correct. However, mathematics proceeds from axioms, which are fundamental assumptions ... sometimes based on physical intuitions, but sometimes not.

I think mathematics is so effective because in the realm of physics our discoveries have few degrees of freedom and can therefore be represented by simple rules. Since the rules must be consistent we have the basis for physics and a tie in to mathematics.

Quotes shamelessly stolen from here [wikipedia.org].

## Re: (Score:2)

Ideal circles do not exist. Before human beings they didn't exist, and they still do not exist. We define them. [...]

And that is the beauty of it all! Can't you imagine a separate universe where PI is a rational number? Somehow, in some separate path of thought, they based their knowledge on 1*pi=1, 2*pi=2, etc.. Their mathematical theorems and laws would be equally true to ours, yet totally based in the supposed non-existent "ideal circle" world that you suggest.

Simply because we do not see it, does NOT mean that it doesn't exist. i.e., even if it exists, we still may not see it.

## Re: (Score:2)

Ideal circles do not exist, that is true. So what? The idea that you need an ideal form is Platonic (it comes from Plato's cave analogy). Does there need to be some ideal, in order for an approximation to exist? (Well, C++ and Smalltalk programmers can skip that question.)

Let's try a different example. Let's go for the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Statistically speaking, it's universally true. There are no exceptions on the macro scale of space/time. If you were to examine a small patch of quantum foam ove

## Re: (Score:2)

No perfect circle = no circle = no approximate circles (what is a circle?).Au contraire, mon frere. Nature can produce approximate circles and does so quite happily. The cross section through a bubble is a very good approximation to a perfect circle, and most people not into arguing philosophy would simply CALL it a circle. This is all without knowing the definition of circle that mathematicians have come up with. Nature, however, does not care what pi is.

The remark about irrational numbers is irrelevan## Re: (Score:2)

My argument is that it is quite immaterial as to whether Pi is universal or not. In any given specific space, there will be -a- constant that denotes the ratio between the circumference and the diameter. The fact that there exists a constant for a given space (whether or not there exists the same constant for all spaces) means that the property of the ratio is fundamental.

Iff* the same constant holds for all spaces, then Pi as we know it is -also- fundamental, but I am unsure this has been proven. My statem

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

The only way it can be proven that mathematics is wholly artificial is to prove that the set of all mathematical "things" that are fundamental is equal to the empty set. ie: there is nothing - not a single property, not a single result - that is true everywhere, including Goedel's Theorum. If even something as simple as Goedel's Theorum is universal, then there exists at least one part of mathematics that is not invented but is wholly natural.

Since the only real constraint that Goedel's Theorem imposes is that there is not a finite set of axioms that can characterize all "sufficiently interesting" mathematics (i.e., that any finite axiomatization is necessarily incomplete) I don't see where you're going with that. It's a construct all the same and no amount of philosophical bullshit will change that.

Now, here we run into a problem. If Goedel's Theorum is not a universal result, but an artifice, then it is also false because it would have to be possible to create a counter-example and the theory states no counter-example of this kind can exist.

The problem is that you're into the space of self-referential mathematics when you're using Goedel's results (they're a necessary part of it, which

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I would claim that the ratio of a circle to its diameter is independent of being observed, or indeed there being an observer.

What's a circle? What's a diameter? What's a ratio? Who defines these?

And while we're at it, you do realize that the universe is non-Euclidean? So how do we view the results from Euclidean geometry, given that reality is not Euclidean?

Radioactive decay follows an exponential decay curve. It will have done so long before anyone could add, let alone handle irrational numbers like e.

That some mathematics models the real world does not mean most of mathematics is not invented. It need not be a binary scenario. What would you say of mathematical constructs that have no analogs in nature (but that

couldbe depicted if desired)?Your arguments are along the li

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No, the bicycle is equivalent to a number base or a mathematical system. It is an implementation OF an underlying system (in this case, Newton's Laws), but Newton's Laws would still remain exactly the same whether Newton - or indeed bicycles - had ever existed.

The definition is also immaterial, as that too is an implementation detail. The underlying principle would remain unaltered whether the definitions of circumference, diameter or pi had ever been developed.

You are confusing the overlaid system with wha

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If you were to imagine an alien lifeform on some distant world, they'll have an identical math but their experience of it

I'm not sure if I'm on board with you here. That's quite a claim to make. Just because it's hard to imagine math that's not identical to our own, does not mean it does not exist. I can imagine a quantum sized life-form living in a probabilistic world, never coming up with the integers. Or maybe a universe-sized creature who has absolutely no need for the idea of oneness.

Since I'm posting, here's what I think is a fun problem:

2178*4 = 8712

21978*4 = 87912

219978*4 = 879912

There's one other family

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1287 seems to work.

One of the most useful things I ever learnt in school was problems involving "casting out 9s", and it struck me immediately the pattern you used ... 1 + 8 = 9, 2 + 7 = 9

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Mathematical tools, however, are invented and not discovered.

Indeed. Pen and paper come to mind.

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Actually, mathematics is considerably more than a model for our universe. We can (and do) study mathematical objects which have no immediate instances in the universe.

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Do you have any proof these constructs don't exist?

Can you prove that there aren't unicorn like creatures in one of the craters of the moon?

Your point?

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I have absolutely no idea. Evidence suggests no, but I have no proof of my ability one way or the other.

Notice that I said "no

immediateinstances", that is, the mathematics was createdbeforeany instances were discovered, if they were discovered at all.## Re: (Score:2)

Hypothetical?

Mathematics is a collection of logically consistent statements about abstractions such as structure and number. "Hypothetical" implies it needs to be tested, a mathematical proof does not need a 'test'.

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The problems are intrinsic to a universe where the mathematics are what they are here. We just didn't know about them until we discovered mathematics.

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The real question is quite the opposite: How can mathematics exist as an area of study before people have a maths problem they want to solve?

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they're a dime a dozen, too.

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In Soviet Russia, joke gets you !

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or small values of 3

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My immediate response to that would be that 9.999... != 10 x 0.999... . I'm not sure exactly how to explain it though, other than "you just added 9, you didn't really multiply by 10 because it is "impossible" to do so due to 0.999... having an infinite amount of decimals."

I'm not a math teacher though, so what do I know.

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This is a common misconception. 0.9999... is

EXACTLYthe same as 1, they're two representations for the same number. This can be proved in a lot of ways, the most basic being that if 1/3 = 0.33333..., then 3 * 1/3 = 1 = 0.999... Another way is, if these two numbers are not equal, what's the distance (difference) between them? Can you find it?More info here [wikipedia.org]

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There is a lot between 1 and

If you are measuring the length of a shoelace in inches then 1 inch and

Really if you just change the frame of reference and name your units something so that