Is alien maths different from ours? And if it is, will they be able to understand the messages that we are sending into space? My summer intern Joe Double speaks to philosopher Professor Adrian Moore from BBC Radio 4’s ‘a history of the infinite’ to find out…
[…] Take me to your chalkboard […]
[…] Great question – and again let me point you to an interview one of my students recorded with Professor Adrian Moore at the Oxford Philosophy department: https://tomrocksmaths.com/2018/10/31/take-me-to-your-chalkboard/ […]
And hence such Aliens would have to think in terms of Algebra, Geometry and Analysis to be able to communicate with us. It would be utterly interesting to see if in the different language or communication system they have, problems such like the incompleteness theorem of Gödel apply (which I don’t understand yet but I’m daring to mention), if they have invented a sort of “Maths” not based on axioms but on something else we’re not capable to process, maybe they had as well solved our “glitches in the mathematical matrix”.
This podcast reminded me of a quote I adore: “Modern Mathematics is the formal study of structures that can be defined in a purely abstract way. Think of mathematical symbols as mere labels without intrinsic meaning. The notation used to denote the entities and the relations is irrelevant; the only properties of integers are those embodied by the relations between them. That is, we don’t invent mathematical structures – we discover them and invent only the notation for describing them.” – Max Tegmark (New Scientist collection issue 4) …and yet I haven’t been able to find a better explanation than this. ★
[…] Adrian Moore. Some people think that maths is discovered, whilst others think that it is invented. Adrian Moore explains how likely we think it is that aliens understand mathematics, depending on these two sides of the argument. Ian Steward goes into detail around the origins of […]