Thursday, November 15, 2007

The language of mathematics

I was reading this morning about Garret Lisi (the article dubbed him a "surfer dude"), who has come up with a theory that explains "everything" - a rival to the commonly discussed string theory. He was inspired by the 57-dimensional E8 mandala. Although I don't claim to understand higher mathematics, the idea that the universe is all the same shape as this model feels right to me. Lisi says, "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."

I looked up E8 on wikipedia, and was struck by the complexity of the mathematical language used to describe this thing. Here's one excerpt:

"This algebra has a 120-dimensional subalgebra so generated by Jij as well as 128 new generators Qa that transform as a Weyl-Majorana spinor of spin(16)...."

If you get into mathematics at school in order to avoid English, you are out of luck when you hit the higher levels.

Speaking of school, I had a dream last night that I was just starting college. I had arrived at a campus in a very small town in Kansas, of all places! I couldn't remember at all what my major was going to be. A professor came by and asked me if I would play in the school orchestra. I said, I do play the flute, but I really don't enjoy it. He said, you can play any instrument you'd like. I said, how about the trumpet? Or better yet, could I just stand in front of the orchestra and sing?

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