Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryMathematics

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3D rendering of abstract blocks of mathematical formulas located in the virtual space

What Is Math About? Is It Discovered or Invented?

Philosopher Edward Feser suggests that the velociraptor, an extinct birdlike dinosaur, might illustrate the problem

Pasadena City College philosopher Edward Feser (pictured) offers some thoughts that may be relevant to the current war on math. Pointing to a recently published article by mathematician James Franklin, he writes, What is mathematics about? The Platonist says that it is about a realm of abstract objects distinct from both the world of concrete material things and the human mind. The nominalist says that it is not really about anything, since mathematical entities are in no way real. The Aristotelian approach rejects nominalism and agrees with Platonism that mathematical entities are real. But it disagrees with the Platonist about the location of these entities. They are, for the Aristotelian, properties of concrete particular things themselves, rather than denizens of…

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Surprised nerd student

Fermat’s Last Tango: Lively Musical For Nerds

The ghost of Fermat and other giants from the Aftermath Club help (frustrate?) a mathematician’s effort to prove Fermat’s famous Last Theorem

If you are a nerd, the musical Fermat’s Last Tango (2001) is hilarious. Mathematician Pierre de Fermat proposed his last theorem around 1637. He wrote a note in the margin of a copy of Arithmetica, a book written by a 3rd-century Alexandrian mathematician, Diophantus. Fermat’s short scribble claimed that he could prove that a specific Diophantine equation had no solution. But whatever Fermat was thinking died with him in 1665. A proof of Fermat’s last theorem eluded mathematicians over 300 years until Princeton’s Andrew Wiles proved it in 1995. Fermat’s Last Tango is a fantasy account of Wiles’s life while he was working on the proof. The play is a musical sprinkled with nerdy inside jokes. For example, part of…

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random numbers

The “Jump” of Chaitin’s Omega Number

Gregory Chaitin explains, “For any infinity, there’s a bigger infinity, which is the infinity of all subsets of the previous step”

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview V: Chaitin’s Number,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks asked mathematician Gregory Chaitin (best known for Chaitin’s unknowable number) if the unknowable number could prove (or disprove) Goldbach’s Conjecture that every even number can be expressed as the sum of two primes. This task is harder than it first appears because even numbers go on indefinitely. A proof that Christian Goldbach (1690–1764) was right or wrong must show that even numbers must be like that, no matter how big they are or how many of them there are. This time out, Dr. Marks and Dr. Chaitin discuss what we can know about Omega numbers — and where famous mathematicians are buried. This…

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List of Prime Numbers below 100, Vintage type writer from 1920s

Could Chaitin’s Number Prove Goldbach’s Conjecture At Last?

Chaitin notes that the problem grows exponentially and the calculations get quite horrendous

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview V: Chaitin’s Number,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his conversation with mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s unknowable number. One thing they discussed was the usefulness of philosophy, with Chaitin saying that if he had had to do practical work 60 years ago, there wouldn’t be practical research today based on the Omega number. But then they turned to the question of whether the unknowable number could prove Goldbach’s famous Conjecture: This portion begins at 17:17 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): The poster problem for the Turing halting problem, is Goldbach’s Conjecture, which says that every even number can be…

Logical Diagrams
Making business plan. Businessperson drawing diagrams. Many graphs and hand drawn diagrams.

Why Impractical Things Like Philosophy Are Actually Quite Useful

Chaitin argues that the human spirit is capable of doing both practical things and impractical things which may have practical consequences later

In last week’s podcast,, “The Chaitin Interview V: Chaitin’s Number,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his conversation with mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s unknowable number. Last time, they looked at how Chaitin’s unknowable number relates to computer pioneer Alan Turing’s vexing halting problem in computer science. This time, they look at the way pure mathematics has a way of being highly practical: It creates a basis for new understanding, leading to technical breakthroughs: This portion begins at 09:50 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: There are always going to be a few of us who like to do practical things. That’s part of my personality too, but there’s also,…

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Businesswoman protect wooden block fall to planning and strategy in risk to business Alternative and prevent. Investment Insurance ,Business risk control concept,

Chaitin’s Number Talks To Turing’s Halting Problem

Why is Chaitin’s number considered unknowable even though the first few bits have been computed?

In last week’s podcast,, “The Chaitin Interview V: Chaitin’s Number,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his conversation with mathematician Gregory Chaitin( best known for Chaitin’s unknowable number) on a variety of things mathematical. Last time, they looked at whether the unknowable number is a constant and how one enterprising team has succeeded in calculating at least the first 64 bits. This time, they look at the vexing halting problem in computer science, first identified by computer pioneer Alan Turing in 1936: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-128-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 07:16 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Well, here’s a question that I have. I know that the Omega or Chaitin’s number is based…

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Omega, the letter of a Greek alphabet. Greek numerals, mathematical eight hundred number concept. Abstract, digital, wireframe, low poly mesh, Raster blue neon 3d illustration. Triangle, line dot

Is Chaitin’s Unknowable Number a Constant?

One mathematics team has succeeded in the first 64 bits of a Chaitin Omega number

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview V: Chaitin’s Number,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his conversation with mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s unknowable number. In this segment, Dr. Marks and Dr. Chaitin discuss whether the unknowable number is really a number… or is it a constant? In earlier podcasts linked below, they have discussed a variety of topics ranging from gifted mathematicians of the past through how to understand creativity in a mathematical way—and more. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-128-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 01:32 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): I want to clear up something first of all. Stanford’s Thomas Cover and Joy Thomas wrote a book that…

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Evolving Abstract Visualization

Can Mathematics Help Us Understand Consciousness?

Gregory Chaitin asks, what if the universe is information, not matter?

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s Unknowable Number, on, among other things, consciousness. What can mathematics contribute to the discussion. Also, what does Chaitin think about panpsychism (everything is conscious”)? The discussion began with reference to David Chalmers’s 1996 book, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, in which Chalmers coined the term “Hard Problem of Consciousness.” The term acknowledged what everyone knew, that human consciousness is a very difficult problem to understand, especially from a materialist perspective.Are there other approaches? Chaitin offers a look at the challenge panpsychism presents to materialism: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-127-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 28:25…

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child hands showing a colorful 123 numbers agains wooden table. Concept of Child education, learning mathematics and counting

The Fundamental Problem With Common Core Math

Intuition relies on skill, not the other way around

In 2010, a bold effort to reform math curriculum was adopted by the majority of the United States. Known as “Common Core Math,” the goal of this endeavor was to establish a common foundation of mathematics education across the country, and to help bolster not only students’ mathematical abilities, but also their mathematical intuition. The goal was to help students think about math more deeply, believing that this will help them work with mathematics better in later years. Before discussing problems with this approach, I want to say that I appreciate the idea of helping students think more deeply about mathematics. After years and years and years of mathematics education, many students wind up thinking about mathematics as merely a set…

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Teamwork and brainstorming concept with businessmen that share an idea with a lamp. Concept of startup

Why Human Creativity Is Not Computable

There is a paradox involved with computers and human creativity, something like Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems or the Smallest Uninteresting Number

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s Unknowable Number, on a number of things, including whether computers can show creativity. Chaitin has thought a lot about that: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-127-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 21:34 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: We’re talking, just in general, about the unknowable. Roger Penrose recently won a Nobel Prize for his work with Stephen Hawking on black hole theory. He also wrote a book called The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and The Laws of Physics (1989) and he followed it up with The Shadows of the Mind:…

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group of school kids raising hands in classroom

Practicing the Basics: Teaching Math Facts in the Classroom

How to help students make deeper connections within mathematics with creative games.

Many people learn to hate math early on. One of the places where people learn to hate math first is in high-stakes speed testing for math facts. This has caused quite a bit of angst in mathematics education for people on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, some have advocated for getting rid of math facts memorization altogether. On the other hand, others have doubled-down, saying that we need speed tests in order to make sure that the cognitive load of arithmetic is limited for later mathematics work. While I fall more into the latter camp than the former, I do think that a more balanced approach to mathematics education may help students in the long run. …

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abstract metallic number background

The Paradox of the Smallest Uninteresting Number

Robert J. Marks sometimes uses the paradox of the smallest “uninteresting” number to illustrate proof by contradiction — that is, by creating paradoxes

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician Gregory Chaitin on how he proved that the number that determines whether computer programs are elegant (in the sense of maximally efficient) is “unknowable.” As Dr. Chaitin explained in the segment published yesterday, any solution would be contradictory. Thus, his proof is a proof by contradiction. By way of illustrating the concept of proof by contradiction, Dr. Marks then offered his proof by contradiction that “all positive integers — numbers like 6 or 129, or 10 100 — are interesting.” This portion begins at 19:45 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: If [some…

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Abstract virtual binary code illustration on blurry modern office building background. Big data and coding concept. Multiexposure

Why the Unknowable Number Exists But Is Uncomputable

Sensing that a computer program is “elegant” requires discernment. Proving mathematically that it is elegant is, Chaitin shows, impossible

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician Gregory Chaitin on his “unknowable number.” That’s the topic of this series, based on the fourth podcast. Last week, we tried getting to know the unknowable number. Today, let’s look at the question of how we know that the number is unknowable — instead of merely non-computable. Lots of things are non-computable but we do not expect that to be true of numbers. Let’s see what’s happening here, as Chaitin offers a walk through his proof that it really is unknowable: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-127-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 09:43 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks:…

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matrix made up of math formulas and mathematical equations - illustration rendering

Getting To Know the Unknowable Number (More or Less)

Only an infinite mind could calculate each bit

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician Gregory Chaitin on his discovery of the “unknowable number.” How can a number that is unknowable exist? Some numbers go on indefinitely (.999999999… ) but we can describe them accurately even if they don’t seem to come to an end anywhere. Some numbers, like pi (π), are irrational — pi goes on and on but its digits form no pattern. However, what does it mean to say that a number exists if it is unknowable? How do we even know it exists? That’s the topic of this series, based on the fourth podcast between Dr. Marks and Gregory Chaitin. Note:…

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Castaway in bureaucracy

Gregory Chaitin on How Bureaucracy Chokes Science Today

He complains, They’re managing to make it impossible for anybody to do any real research. You have to say in advance what you’re going to accomplish. You have to have milestones, reports

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on how Stephen Wolfram’s software has taken much of the drudgery out of math. At the same time, in Chaitin’s view, a threat looms: A new, more bureaucratic, mindset threatens to take the creativity out of science, technology, and math: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 19:45 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: I was sitting down tallying, I think, the intellectual giants that have introduced new mathematical ideas, brand new. I was thinking of people like Claude Shannon, Lotfi Zadeh, yourself… I don’t know if we…

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Online education concept

How Stephen Wolfram Revolutionized Math Computing

Wolfram has not made computers creative but he certainly took a lot of the drudgery out of the profession

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things mathematical, including why math or engineering geniuses (Elon Musk came to mind, of course) can’t just follow the rules. This week, we look at Stephen Wolfram’s new program that checks your hard math. What can — and can’t — it do for mathematicians? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 13:22 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: Now, there is what I regard as a piece of AI, so it might be interesting to talk about it. My friend Stephen Wolfram (pictured), the system he’s created,…

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SpaceX Concept Spacecraft in orbit of the Earth. SpaceX Elon Musk Mars programm 3d render

Why Elon Musk and Other Geniuses Can’t Afford To Follow Rules

Mathematician Gregory Chaitin explains why Elon Musk is, perhaps unexpectedly, his hero

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things mathematical, including why great books on math, advancing new theorems, aren’t written much any more. This week, we look at why geniuses like Musk (whose proposed Mars Orbiter is our featured image above) simply can’t just follow the rules, for better or worse: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 7:57 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: Look at Elon Musk (pictured). He’s my great hero. He’s a wonderful engineer and he’s a wonderful entrepreneur and he doesn’t follow the rules. Robert J. Marks: He doesn’t,…

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black mathematics board with formulas

Why Don’t We See Many Great Books on Math Any More?

Decades ago, Gregory Chaitin reminds us, mathematicians were not forced by the rules of the academic establishment to keep producing papers, so they could write key books.

In our most recent podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things mathematical, including whether math is invented or discovered. This time out, Chaitin talks about why he thinks great books on math, advancing new theorems, aren’t written much any more: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 02:49 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: You don’t hear the word “scholarship” very much anymore in academia. Gregory Chaitin: And people don’t write books. In the past, some wonderful mathematicians like G. H. Hardy (1877–1947, pictured in 1927) would write wonderful books like A Mathematician’s Apology (1940)…

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Red and Blue Spiral Fractal Background Image, Illustration - Vortex repeating spiral pattern, Symmetrical repeating geometric patterns. Abstract background

Mathematics: Did We Invent It Or Did We Merely Discover It?

What does it say about our universe if the deeper mathematics has always been there for us to find, if we can?

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin (pictured) on how math presents us with a challenging philosophical question: Does math image deep truth about our universe? Or do we just make up these math rules in our own minds to help us understand nature? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 00:39 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: Deep philosophical questions have many answers, sometimes contradictory answers even, that different people believe in. Some mathematics, I think, is definitely invented, not discovered. That tends to be trivial mathematics — papers that fill in much-needed gaps because…

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Spiral Background.

Hard Math Can Be Entertaining — With the Right Musical Score!

Gregory Chaitin discusses with Robert J. Marks the fun side of solving hard math problems, some of which come with million-dollar prizes

In last week’s podcast,, “The Chaitin Interview II: Defining Randomness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on his method of describing true randomness:. If no theory is simpler than the data you are trying to explain, then the data is random. They also discussed the work of true randomness but also on how Ray Solomonoff (1926–2009), another algorithmic information theory founder, who pursued the “shortest effective string of information that describes an object.” But now, for a lighter touch, we learn that a musical comedy was made of Fermat’s Last Theorem. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-125-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 19:24 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: If you…