# What are numbers?what are they, really — [closed]

We use numbers every day, but taking a step back, what are they, really — and why do they do such a damn good job of helping us explain the universe (such as Newtonian laws)? Mathematical structures can consist of numbers, sets, groups, and points — but are they real objects, or do they simply describe relationships that necessarily exist in all structures?

isnt that just weird discovery of 1-10 answered most of the question in-universe. What if we were wrong. What if actual numbers should be 1- 1* (some random number). why just 1-10 and then repeat.

## closed as too broad by Geremia, Frank Hubeny, Mark Andrews, L.M. Student, virmaiorMar 12 '18 at 6:26

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• As your question stands, it is far too broad as there are several views of what numbers are, ranging from Aristotle up to Frege and beyond. – Geremia Mar 9 '18 at 20:57
• Two separate issues are being raised here: one concerns the ontology of numbers; see e.g. here. The other concerns not numbers, but numerals, i.e. the symbols we use to represent numbers. In the West, we have a ten-digit system for that, but little depends on this. In particular, there’s no ‘happy coincidence’ by which we discovered ten digits that miraculously match the true, ten-digit nature of numbers. Here is a video that talks about different numeral systems around the world. – MarkOxford Mar 9 '18 at 22:13
• You ask a good but incredibly difficult question. One of the standing questions in the philosophy of mathematics is whether mathematics is the underpinnings of reality, or if mathematics is a construction of the human mind with which to make sense of reality. You can imagine that if there is that much uncertainty, pinning down an answer to "what are numbers" is quite a tricky task. – Cort Ammon Mar 9 '18 at 22:49
• Binary, base 2 rather than base 10, is very useful with circuits and switches. Our genes operate with base 4, for quantum-mechanically efficient reasons, ACTG. They are called arabic numerals, but although they arrived in the West through Arabian scholars actually were developed in India, along with zero, infinity, and geometry bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0038xb0 – CriglCragl Mar 9 '18 at 23:51
• Numbers are things people decide to call numbers. As a practicing mathematician, what I call a number depends on what I'm doing at the time. I've had opportunity to reasonably call nearly anything a number, depending on if and how I'm manipulating it algebraically. And I've had opportunity to consider as not-numbers things usually considered as such; even the natural numbers themselves. – Hurkyl Mar 10 '18 at 6:44