Thursday, June 01, 2006

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Ever since I read Reuben Hersh, I have been an anti-Platonist. I agree that there are things “out there” that can be counted, but I don’t think the numbers that are used to count have any existence independent of us, nor that there are such things as “Sets” other than our own minds’ tendency to group things together. It now appears though, that the Universe itself may be a some sort of giant computation, and now Marcus du Satoy writes this.

Mathematicians were skeptical. Though mathematics has often served physicists—Einstein, for instance—they wondered whether physics could really answer hard-core problems in number theory. So in 1996, Peter Sarnak at Princeton threw down the gauntlet and challenged physicists to tell the mathematicians something they didn't know about primes. Recently, Jon Keating and Nina Snaith, of Bristol, duely obliged.

I am as ignorant as before, but much less sure of myself.

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