There is an ongoing PBS TV series (also several books and also a website) called “Closer to Truth”. It is hosted by neuroscientist Robert Lawrence Kuhn. He’s featured in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with the cream of the cream of today’s cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, etc. on all of the Big Questions surrounding a trilogy of broad topics – Cosmos; Consciousness; Meaning. The trilogy collectively dealt with reality, space and time, mind and consciousness, aliens, theology and on and on and on. Here are a few more of my comments on one of the general topics covered, mathematics.

Is Mathematics Eternal?

# The number of potential equations is as close to infinite as makes no odds. But only a relative few reflect our reality (whatever that is). What role do the others play like for example an inverse cube law or say energy equals mass times the velocity education mathematics of light (not squared)?

Is Mathematics Invented or Discovered?

# The idea that seven times six equals forty-two (7 x 6 = 42) is only true because we all agree on that being the case, just like we can and do all agree that a twenty dollar bill a relative few ($20) is worth twenty dollars even though the special paper it is printed on might be worth or have cost only twenty cents. So we agree on that equation too – a twenty dollar bill equals twenty dollars. But, if all of a sudden the vast majority of the populace said that seven times six does not equal 42, but say 24, then that would be the case and seven times six would no longer equal 42. The same applies regarding the currency. If all of a sudden all shopkeepers said your twenty dollar bill was only worth twenty cents, well, twenty cents it shall be. Thus, mathematics, and mathematical equations are ruled by near absolute majority agreement or consensus and thus mathematics is an invention that does not exist in any sense of reality outside of that consensus. Seven times six equals forty-two or seven times six does not equal forth-two – neither exist as a universal truth apart from what we collectively determine by consensus is the case.

# I gather one could express mathematics in the English (French, Chinese, German, whatever) language. I mean One Plus One Equals Two is as valid as 1 + 1 = 2. So, the language of mathematics is a subset or a sub-part of the English (French, Chinese, etc.) language, and those languages are used for all subjects. Of course mathematics, written out or in symbol form, isn’t just for physics and the sciences. I guess part of the universal, well the human universe anyway, is using mathematics to do your income tax return, and your household budget, and figuring out at the supermarket what brand of product is cheapest per unit quantity. Anyway, English isn’t universal and French isn’t universal and Chinese isn’t universal, but Englishmen and Frenchmen and Chinamen would agree that 1 + 1 = 2 is universal whether expressed in symbols or letters; hieroglyphics or characters. Even the “Greys” would probably agree that 1 + 1 = 2. However, is mathematics universal before any conscious minds were conceived of in Mother Nature’s philosophy? Did 1 + 1 = 2 exist in any shape, manner or form nanoseconds after the Big Bang?

# Clearly there are concepts that cannot be expressed mathematically, like beauty or Wednesday, which is why I suggested that the language of mathematics is a subset of some broader language – like English, or French or Chinese or Klingon. There are probably trillions of ideas that can be expressed in English, just some of which involve mathematics.

By “universal language”, I mean mathematics is probably going to be the initial means by which we can start to communicate with an extraterrestrial intelligence anywhere across the Universe. We probably have Euclidean Geometry, arithmetic, Pi, and so on down the line in common. One would assume that one and only one straight line can join two points on a flat surface and that would hold true anywhere in our galaxy and our Universe. That would be a universal. If all of a sudden you saw etched or carved into the Martian surface the traditional pictorial representation of a Pythagorean Triangle, you’d have to conclude that a non-human intelligence did the etching or carving and that we have that something in common that could kick-start communication off.