A quotation by David Mumford


First, I want to quote a definition of what is mathematics due to Davis and Hersh . . .
"The study of mental objects with reproducible properties is called mathematics."
I love this definition because it doesn't try to limit mathematics to what has been called mathematics in the past but really attempts to say why certain communications are classified as math, others as science, others as art, others as gossip. Thus reproducible properties of the physical world are science whereas reproducible mental objects are math. Art lives on the mental plane (the real painting is not the set of dry pigments on the canvas nor is a symphony the sequence of sound waves that convey it to our ear) but, as the post-modernists insist, is reinterpreted in new contexts by each appreciator. As for gossip, which includes the vast majority of our thoughts, its essence is its relation to a unique local part of time and space.
The dawning of the age of stochasticity


JOC/EFR April 2011

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