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A Mathematical Mystery Tour - Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Cosmos

A.K. Dewdney

John Wiley & Sons, (hardback edition), �218 pages, 1999

Item# B078
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When I was an engineering student in college there was a course offered for non-science majors entitled "Mathematics Without Tears." I always envied the guys in that class imagining them sitting around discussing the beauty and philosophical implications of mathematics without having to spend hours a week doing math homework sets. A.K. Dewdney's recent book A Mathematical Mystery Tour: Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Cosmos now provides that opportunity for those of who weren't able to take that course in college.

I'm also constantly searching for books from various disciplines that approach the topic of Intelligent Design from a different angle. In Tour, Dewdney undertakes to answer two questions. First, why is mathematics so amazingly successful in describing the structure of physical reality, and second, is mathematics discovered or is it created? I believe both of these questions would meet Phillip Johnson's criteria for "asking the right question."

Dewdney is on a quest to understand the true nature of math. To fulfill his quest, he employs what he describes as "a fictional narrative," where the reader is taken on a historical journey to interview famous mathematicians in Greece, Arabia, Italy, and England.

At the end of the journey Dewdney concludes that the essential contents of mathematics was not created by man, but rather discovered. He uses the term holos to describe the place where mathematics exists, apart from the human mind:

"The place, however one conceives it, is immense. The total amount of information it contains is incomparably greater than the information that would seem to be required to specify the cosmos, even were the cosmos infinite. Yet the holos subtly pervades the cosmos. What is an algebraic formula doing lurking in the wavelengths of the hydrogen atom? What gave Adams and Leverrier and right to expect that their predictions for the position of a new planet in the solar system would be correct? Who can doubt that if a cosmic system, be it planetary or atomic, obeys certain axioms, then it will obey every theorem that springs from those axioms?...The cosmos exists because there is a mind that can think it."

My recommendation is that you read Tour and then when you find yourself surrounded by a group of techno-geeks at your next social event, you pop the question "Is mathematics discovered or is it created?" and see what happens.

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