In this episode of the Idea Channel‘s always-brilliant explanation of how and why the world works, the focus is on math, and the mind-bending question: Who created math, anyway?

“Unlike physics, chemistry, and biology we can’t see it, smell it, or even directly observe it in the universe. And so that has made a lot of really smart people ask, does it actually even EXIST?!?! Similar to the tree falling in the forest, there are people who believe that if no person existed to count, math wouldn’t be around at ALL!!!! But is this true? Do we live in a mathless universe? Or if math is a real entity that exists, are there formulas and mathematical concepts out there in the universe that are undiscovered? Or is it all fiction? Whew!!”

  • …and what is the sound of one hand clapping?

  • Azar Aftimos

    Thanks for raising such a point that deserves to think about.

  • MtnWoman

    Math evolved out of Philosophy to explain concepts. Without it would be have reached the Moon?, et al

  • Droidzilla

    Math is simply a language. Debating it being “right” or “real” is as silly as debating English being “right” or “real.”

  • DP

    God created the integers and man did the rest.

  • Fascinating subject – and about at the limit of the capabilities of my primate brain to understand… But I would point towards the final chapter of Peter Atkins’ book Galileo’s Finger, for a brilliant exploration of the part that mathematics plays both in the ideas of science and in its own existence.

  • caleb

    The notion of *anything* existing objectively is a matter of Faith – observation being always – by definition – subjective.

  • Cynphony

    If…..I think therefore I am, then… I think about math, therefore it is.
    It’s great to look at things in a different way.

  • KenB

    A simpler way to explain this conundrum is that:—-inter-subjective relationships in the universe exist “Objectively” (without us)—like Pi—but our language (Math) used to express those relationships are “INVENTED” . Math only works within a SET of shared relationships, i.e. 2+2 + truth=huh? Anything outside of this SET is “Noumena.” Our “”fishing nets” are too small to catch everything. Go ask Kant.
    Ken B.

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