# This Week at Physics

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**Chaos & Complex Systems Seminar**

**Some half-baked philosophy of mathematics**

**Date:**

**Tuesday, October 2nd**

**Time:**12:05 pm

**Place:**4274 Chamberlin (refreshments will be served)

**Speaker:**Moe Hirsch, UW Department of Mathematics

**Abstract:**I'll discuss what I think are the basic philosophical questions:

(1) What makes math universal? Its results seem independent of time and place. No one doubts Euclid's or Pythagoras' theorems of thousands of years ago, even if we think some of the proofs aren't correct. No one since Hitler and Stalin thinks its correctness depends on race, religion or nationality. But will the same math be found wherever there's life in the universe?

(2) Why is math so useful? Try spending a day without thinking about numbers.

(3) Its results seem absolutely true. But are they? If they are, how can we prove it? And if we can prove it, how do we know our proof is correct?

Readings:

Essays in Humanistic Mathematics: Mathematical Association of America

What is Mathematics Really? R. Hersh, Oxford University Press

Where Mathematics Comes from: G. Lakoff & R Nunez, Basic Books

The Math Gene: K. Devlin, Basic Books

**Host:**Clint Sprott