Is the Universe Made of Math? The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis

Updated on December 8, 2019
1701TheOriginal profile image

Leonard Kelley holds a bachelor's in physics with a minor in mathematics. He loves the academic world and strives to constantly explore it.

Source

Surely you have heard all some amazingly wild theories about the Universe. It’s a computer simulation and we are all subject to our programmers. We are just holograms on the surface of a supermassive black hole. Everything around you is just a figment of your imagination. But how about this one: the Universe is made up of math. Not just described by it, but is math. Sorry, that may be scaring for the math-sensitive crowd out there, with terrors unspeakable brought back to the mind. But let’s look deeper into this and hopefully quash those fears away.

Talking the Talk

Work by Max Tegmark shows that the properties we associate with reality such as mass, time, space, and so on are just mathematical structures. He came to this idea based on the mathematical patterns we have seen appear in nature, like the Golden Ratio or the Fibonacci Sequence, but also with more common place things like conics. Math describes natural phenomena extremely well but Tegmark says this isn’t enough. We ourselves are substructures made of math (otherwise known as a self-aware substructure), uncovering the landscape all around us by formalizing them in equations and theorems. This is a new philosophical position known as mathematical monism, implying the singular source of our reality. If true, then anything could be described by math, which has amazing inter-connections between its disciplines. It also shows a beauty to the fine-tuning of our Universe, whose numerous constants are just perfect to allow for our existence. A natural consequence of the theory is a multiverse of other mathematical structures, i.e. universes, in existence (for more on that, see my hub on multiverses) (Lewis, Woolfe, Tegmark “Is”).

It would be a shift in our thinking, to say the least. If everything could be reduced to a single mathematical structure, then all of our sciences are currently limited based on the vocabulary we use to describe them. But it’s a necessary evil, because without that vocab we lose a relational quality that helps us see the connections between disciplines. As we get to the more overarching theories, we find that words don’t cut it and the math grows – a sign of the overarching structure. The key will be our ability to abstract concepts and remove the associations we currently have. They will need to change, just as we do. One aspect is the viewpoint we can take in science of a system: Being a participant versus an omnipotent observer. Relativity and quantum mechanics depend greatly on this, and it would be hard to gain an understanding of the two without it, so an adaptation will likely be required (especially if we hope to merge them someday). Math has done such a good job of describing (and predicting) science that this hypothesis gains solid footing if we can make that hurdle in our communication over it (Tegmark “The,” Piet).

Source

Challenges to the hypothesis are numerous. How this can be reconciled with theories that contradict this precision (like the incompatibility of quantum mechanics and general relativity or Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem) remains to be seen. We all hope that someday the relation between them could be uncovered. Also, why do we see reality the way we do and not as just a bunch of math? Tegmark reconciles this by pointing out how subjective our perception can be, and so we see reality in the way that makes most sense to us. Is it even science, able to be proven false, and can we make predictions from it? Statistical analysis points to yes. Some also argue that math is just a tool that gives us our communicative ability to describe it, but is nothing more than. An even more intriguing question is what caused the structure in the first place. Was it a deity, or something different? (Tegmark “Is”).

It is ultimately the metaphysics that can really get one going on this. Roger Penrose developed the Mind-Matter-Math triangle to describe a potential layout to think about universal dynamics. In it, matter impacts us, we impact math, and math impacts matter, creating a cycle. It seems reasonable, but what could alternatives bring to the table, especially with the notion that math may just be everything we mentioned? If you do subscribe to this, a fundamentalist position, then the link of mind causing math would be wrong because math is the fundamental structure of the Universe, and our minds are made of matter which is a mathematical structure (Piet, Jaanes).

Whew.

Source

Works Cited

Hut, Piet and Mark Alford, Max Tegmark. “On Math, Matter, and Mind.” arXiv:physics/0510188v2.

Jannes, Gil. “Some comments on ‘The Mathematical Universe.’” arXiv:0904.0867v1.

Lewis, Tanya. “Universe is Made of Math, Cosmologist Says.” Huffingtonpost.com. Huffington Post, 02 Feb. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2019.

Tegmark, Max. “Is ‘the theory of everything’ merely the ultimate ensemble theory?” arXiv: 9704009v2.

---. “The Mathematical Universe.” arXiv: 0704.0646v2.

Woolfe, Sam. “The Universe is Made of Mathematics.” Philosophynow.org. Philosophy Now, 2016. Web. 16 Jan. 2019.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Leonard Kelley

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)