The Mystery of Our Mathematical Universe

Moderated by Steve Paulson
Executive Producer, To the Best of Our Knowledge

S. James Gates Jr., PhD
Brown University

Margaret Wertheim
Founder, Institute For Figuring

From basic arithmetic to the calculation of rocket trajectories, mathematics provides an elegant means of systematically understanding and quantifying the world around us. Beyond its computational functions, however, mathematics serves an even more vital purpose: It illuminates the most fundamental knowledge of our universe, furnishing the tools that classical physics, quantum mechanics, and astronomy use to develop and build upon their findings.

But why should mathematics be so effective in explaining our universe, as first noted by Nobel laureate physicist Eugene Wigner? Why have fundamental laws discovered through pure mathematics turned out to describe the behavior of our physical world with such remarkable precision, from the fundamental law of gravitation to Maxwell’s electromagnetic equations? Given that our physical universe is comprised of mathematical properties, some have posited that mathematics is the language of the universe, whose laws reveal what appears to be a hidden order in the natural world. But are there also limits to what mathematics can reveal about the mystery of our universe?

Theoretical physicist S. James Gates Jr. and science writer Margaret Wertheim join Steve Paulson to explore the mystery of our universe and the uncanny potential of mathematics to reveal the laws of nature.

Webcast Podcast

Wednesday, October 10, 2018
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Reception to Follow
The New York Academy of Sciences
7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street, 40th Floor
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This event is part of the Conversations on the Nature of Reality series, which brings together leading scientists and thinkers to explore the fundamental nature of reality through the lens of scientific inquiry and personal experience.