In a letter to his father in 1839, Dostoyevsky wrote that mathematics was a strange science and that is was silly to concern oneself with it. Math is esoteric and secret, perfect and elegant, and – for many of – obscure and puzzling. But reality is fundamentally mathematical. Even the ancient Greeks were aware of this and knew that formulae and theorems were essential tools for understanding the world. “Chaos”, “algorithm”, “infinity”, “numbers”, and “probability” are evocative words that are used in many fields of knowledge and whisper something into our ears even when we care little for mathematics. The books in the series explain mathematics as a sort of alphabet of the world, employ an approach combining philosophy and humanism, and shed light on the role of mathematics in the history of thought. The series offers readers a fascinating adventure leading to a better understanding of the cultural value of mathematics and its impact on civilization.
According to Galileo, the great book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. And, in fact, three centuries of science have taught us that we are surrounded by numbers, geometric shapes, and mathematical relationships. Sometimes they are observable, but usually they are hidden in the universe’s operational mechanisms. But how, and why, do these abstract creations of the human mind manage to describe the material world of natural phenomena, ranging from the most familiar to those that govern the cosmos and, indeed, matter itself? In this book, a philosopher and a mathematician address this topic in simple terms and, casting aside technicalities and formal demonstrations, explore the extensive presence of mathematics in nature, and describe some of its more bizarre and fascinating manifestations.
Vincenzo Barone is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Western Piedmont.
Giulio Giorello is a philosopher of science and teaches at the University of Milan.