Ed Frenkel – Maths and Reality

Watching a (very) long video interview of Ed Frenkel (author of Love and Math). Hat tip to @katoi for the recommendation.

It’s 3 and 3/4 hours long and I’m barely 1/3 through, and it’s unlikely I’ll get to relisten or even complete it, but it is very good from Frenkel.

Without taking detailed notes, there are already many things worthy of note. (Primarily famed as a pure mathematician, but with a prior focus on physics as explained with maths.)

The idea of the divine (despite its baggage). The ideas of subjectivity and participation vs objective reality “whatever that means”. The distinctions between left and right brain views. The basic question of what we mean by reality anyway when asking questions about how much maths and physics may or may not represent reality. Apollonian vs Dionysian perspectives after Nietzsche. The proximity of madness. Reality predicted in art and fiction. The evolution in his own thinking over time, involved a flip from the explicit to the intuitive, but choosing one side is always limiting. Gödel – the formally explicit has limitations.

His objection to “everything is computation” is the same argument as Gödel in his view. (Ah! Sure, but we have other kinds of computation and algorithms – information processing – that are not of that formally explicit, intellectually rigorous and objectively pre-defined kind. Fundamentally “affective”. Complex emerges from the simple.)

Almost disappointing that such an advanced and accomplished mathematician has the Euler Identity – [ Integral e ^i*pi = -1 ] – as his favourite or most beautiful mathematical equation. Don’t we all?

And – he has “the Bronowski moment” too. Humanity’s need for the rejection of certainty.

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