Mathematics – the Imperfect Language of the Universe

“We give great value not only to the methods and the tools of science but also to the language of the universe we call mathematics.” – Neil Degrasse Tyson

Writing about the flaws of science in the age of fake news is like walking on eggshells. When supported by a public interview statement given by the celebrity astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, though, it is a far more comfortable challenge.

As a guest in Stephen Colbert’s informal interview-lecture at Montclair Kimberley Academy, Degrasse Tyson uses the words of the mathematician and Nobel-prize winner Eugene Wigner to brings us closer to the specific bias of the scientific logic: “Having in mind that it is a product made in our heads, mathematics has inexplicably large usefulness in the universe. We have not discovered mathematics under a rock. It is a pure mental fabrication, and yet, it provides us with exact predictive descriptions and explanations about the universe.”

Tyson considers maths and physics the basics of the language of the universe. The majority of the academia would agree that they are the backbone of science. While getting used to interpreting phenomena and events through this language we forget about stepping out of the lines of established thinking. An almost perfect illustration of the limiting frame of a single scientific language is spinning the phrase “thinking out of the box” into “thinking out of the maths”.

He adds that the outcome of a one-directional interpretation of the universe is that we get accustomed to dismissing our intrinsic senses of investigation and discovery of new things we possess as children. We filtrate everything through the already digested knowledge making hypotheses and assumptions of how things should be.

In this way, we damage the childlike curiosity in the mind of a fully grown adult.     

This is where Tyson cuts it short by remembering the libretto of the Broadway musical “Phantom of the opera” and his love of another phenomenal language – the language of music: “Leave your senses – is a replica from the musical” – he says, and adds: ”One day, perhaps in another life, I too would love to write texts for Broadway musicals…”

Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberley Academy

Photo credit: trindade.joao via Foter.com / CC BY

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