Is Reality a Mathematical Structure?
Monday 15 December 2014
The Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark thinks that the answer to this question is yes. In the video clip below (from the BBC2 Horizon documentary What is Reality? - February 2011), he says, "I think our universe is not just described by math, I think it is math. I think the entire universe is a giant mathematical structure that we're a part of".
Mathematics cannot get much more important than that.
A short video clip like this could be a nice starting point for a discussion in a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) class. One question I like to ask TOK students (or also students in any of my IB math classes) is the following: Are some subjects more important than others? (could substitute the word "useful" for "important" - but I prefer "important") Of course, this is a question that does not have an answer - or could even be considered 'unfair' - but these are the kinds of questions that students should be challenged with in TOK ... and they should not be allowed to give simple, unsophisticated answers - such as "No, all subjects are equally important". I answer that (playing devil's advocate) by saying "Are you certain - so the subject of astrology is just as important as physics?". TOK should provoke / challenge students to tackle tough questions and to come up with thoughtful, sophisticated responses. Back to the question Are some subjects more important than others? I have the following XKCD cartoon on my classroom door.