Math, the Universe, and Everything: Max Tegmark's Interpretation of Reality
Despite how much mathematicians like to think that their work is the end-all, be-all, it can be sometimes quite complicated to explain to friends and family who are not familiar with the pleasures and perils of doing high-level math exactly why it is so important. At the same time, however, devout followers of math still realize that there is an element of get-your-head-out-of-the-clouds, especially when dealing with abstract mathematics that do not directly apply to career paths that are lucrative or have potential for advancing research in an academic setting.
But what if someone were to tell you that everything that we know, everything that we feel, is all a complex series of mathematical structures? Of course, many have theorized that math and disciplines that are heavily math-based like physics, are very accurate ways to describe the world as it exists, but cosmologist Max Tegmark takes things one step further.
In an absolutely fascinating article published in Discover Magazine, here Tegmark explains his theories that were almost impossible to publish or even be taken seriously a few years ago. Taking a leaf out of string theory's book, Tegmark has endeavored to explain what is known in popular science as "alternative" or "parallel" universes. In more serious academic circles, these universes are known as "multiverses." Tegmark notes that others have posited three multiverses, but he has added a fourthâthe mathematical multiverse. (Another article about Tegmark is here.)
Tegmark describes this particular multiverse as such in the Discover interview:
Galileo and Wigner and lots of other scientists would argue that abstract mathematics describes reality. Plato would say that mathematics exists somewhere out there as an ideal reality. I am working in between. I have this sort of crazy-sounding idea that the reason why mathematics is so effective at describing reality is that it is reality. That is the mathematical universe hypothesis: Mathematical things actually exist, and they are actually physical reality.
Although Tegmark's work has not received as much critical attention as other mathematician's work, it his is melding of physics, pure math, and cosmology that has helped his research be more seriously considered. For more information on Tegmark's theories, check out his MIT hosted website, The Universes of Max Tegmark