0

Suppose we have a person that one day states "x+3=5". The next day he again states "x+3=5". As events, we can say they are different but does the meaning of the expression has changed? It seems obvious that this isn't true but how can we prove it? Is it because mathematics are independent of time? Could we say the same for physical objects? For example, two objects are produced different days from the same factory. Would we call them the same objects?

  • 2
    The point is right: physical objects are located in time while abstract ones (if any) are time-independent. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 4 at 16:10
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Thanks for the answer. This was my intuition but I wanted to check it. – ado sar Apr 4 at 16:47
  • 1
    You can have a mathematical system where the system has different states at different internal time-coordinates though. One could say that statements about the state of the system at each time coordinate are still "timelessly" true in some metaphysical sense, but then in metaphysics there are some views on time that say that statements about events in our future are already true or false, so in that sense are similarly "timelessly" true (see fatalism and the "B theory of time"). – Hypnosifl Apr 5 at 3:58
  • You don't seem to be asking about time per se, but The Problem Of Induction. Your example is sketchy too, because x is used as a variable which can be changed, so the same person who saud these things might have put x to any number of other uses in between, with no consequences for the question. Assuming x is fixed & has a single value is counter to the power of algebra. You equate products and abstractions, which is a non-starter. It's not a coherent question. – CriglCragl Apr 5 at 20:18
  • There are some words the denotation of which change over time ; for example " tomorrow", or " now". But there is no such term in the sentence " x+3=5". This sentence is always equivalent to "x = 2 ", whatever time be it uttered. – user37859 Apr 9 at 16:48
2

Mathematical facts are timeless. They are discovered by axioms that happen to be chosen from the intuition of the mathematician. A physical object, produced from the same factory, identical in all physical characteristics is necessarily distinguished by the fact that

  • They are made of fermions that cannot occupy the same quantum state
  • Things are more of events in spacetime rather than solid immutable objects like mathetmaical theorems

In fact, Einstein was troubled by time in the regard that why does the "now" exist. If the natural laws are mathematical, then the results of computation are already writ in the fabric of universal logic. Therefore there would be no need for a temporal evolution. Lee Smolin uses the same idea to show that the Universe cannot have immutable laws, because if it did, the moment "now" shouldn't exist. The evolution of physical laws themselves describe a flow of time according to him.

Now here is the funny thing, nobody can prove any of those statements: if physical laws really are timeless, then there seems to be no reason why successions of moments exist, whether consciousness has something to do with this apparent presence of now and absence of the past and future remains to be seen.

| improve this answer | |
  • "axioms that happen to be chosen from the intuition of the mathematician" - the intuition of a mathematician doesn't sound like a very robust or scientific basis on which to assert "facts"! – Steve Apr 5 at 6:05
  • @Steve No it doesn't. But it happens to be so often the case that intuition is derived from physics of the universe. Take topology for example. How would a being come to know about changing shapes and preserving boundaries from crossing without first having seen them in real life? – Weezy Apr 5 at 6:09
  • I wouldn't say intuition is derived "from the physics of the universe", but from a tacit understanding (or tacit partial understanding), sometimes based in practical experience, sometimes based in a system of concepts absorbed in one way or another from culture. In some cases "intuition" can be a cover for pure fantasy, or for beliefs chosen to serve another agenda. As for topology, the basic principle that some relational essence is preserved under stretching, bending, and so on, is strongly suggested (I would speculate) by exposure to netting, woven fabrics, and suchlike. – Steve Apr 5 at 7:24
0

Mathematics does not depend on time, except if it wants to :)

If we take your expression (x+3=5) , from mathematical standpoint first we must define operands (numbers 3 and 5 ) then operators ( + and =, respectively addition and relation of equality) . We must define logic to be used for evaluating truthfulness of the expression (Boolean logic/algebra is usually used, but there are others), and only after that we could talk about x. Mathematicians tend to define this rigorously, but let's assume common interpretation - in this case x must be 2 in order for this expression to be true .

As you can see, mathematics tend to invent its own rules. Mathematical axioms and subsequent theorems do not depend on anything . For example, Peano axioms simply state "0 is a natural number" etc ... without mentioning natural world, human observations, physics or anything similar. Mathematics could introduce time as an variable, so our x could be x(t), and we could have x(1)=2 and x(2)=6 . In this case or expression x+3=5 would be true for t=1 and false for t=2 . But again, from mathematical standpoint this is voluntary. Mathematics does not force us to have x dependent on t .

What about physics ? Physics on the other hand is completely natural science, in fact the name physics could be interpreted as knowledge of nature. As such, physics is obliged to take natural phenomena like time into account. Physics uses mathematics for its description of reality, but with a caveat: all equations in physics are just models of the reality or simplifications of the system, "good enough" to be used in scientific or practical purposes. In fact, this is why physics has theoretical and experimental side. While theoretical physics must provide mathematical models to be tested in experiments, it also must try to explain unforeseen or unusual phenomena encountered during experiments.

So what about our factory objects ? From physical standpoint, there are no two identical objects in universe, but for the purpose of mathematical model physics could assume them to be identical. Again, this depends on circumstances and "good enough" criteria. For example, if you are not interested in minute details, any car of the same type could be used for crash tests or handling tests. But if you want to study effects of the sun on paint, then you must select specific car, expose it to certain light amplitudes and frequencies at certain temperature etc .

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.