Five equations that changed the world

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In the first chapter his book, The Big Questions, Steven Landsburg lays out the case that the laws of arithmetic are immutable, eternal, and even exist outside the scope of time. He does this in a non-technical way, just walks through the logic in small bites. When an equation is found that is not only mathematically sound, but also furthers our understanding of the Universe, I see that as liberating some order from the chaos.

Another thought, I almost wrote that you liberate truth when you find a new equation. Naturally, I am led to police detectives who are trying to uncover the truth. Rather, he has discovered the truth. In my analogy the Universe is the crime and the equation is the criminal, the motive, and the method. In fact we see this in baseball too!

Five equations that changed the world

Perfectly accessible to the intelligent lay reader, not at all mathy, but profoundly enlightening and thought-provoking. Who knows whether or not hypothetical alien races do math as we know it? Who knows whether they would conceive of integers or infinity?

Great review, Keith! For a slightly different spin, you might enjoy The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, which focuses not on the great theories, but on the practical side of things.


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Alex Basson. No, he merely found out that the relationship was there. Look in your thesaurus, develop!

In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World

To say that math equations are not universal truths is just wrong. Just to get ahead of the naysayers, I am not going to argue this point, I am busy at work being a physicist.

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Numeric science titles FTW! Obo: Your comment suggests you may be misunderstanding an important but subtle distinction between physical phenomena and scientific theory. The success of a scientific theory is predicated upon its ability both to satisfy existing data and to make accurate predictions about future phenomena. Yes, of course, the relationship between energy, mass, and the speed of light existed before Einstein. This kind of thing has happened frequently throughout the history of science. Universally accepted scientific theories must be, and often are, abandoned due to contradictory evidence.

I mean, consider the alternative. But if so, what does that mean when we later find out that he was wrong?


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But now new telescopes and measuring devices have been developed that allow you to track the path of the planets with unprecedented accuracy. So astronomers the world over re-plot the paths of Mercury and Venus, and behold! At first, you doubt the new measurements; they must be error-prone. But more and more people come up with the same data time and time again, and the data consistently disagrees with Newton.

What do you say in such a case?

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Five equations that changed the world | Open Library

It is fact! The planets are doing it wrong! After that point, though, it fails to satisfy the data and ultimately we must abandon it in favor of some new theory that more closely satisfies the data and makes accurate predictions. As for math equations not being universal, you are correct that your assertion to the contrary is not, in fact, an argument.

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