Doing Mathematics (Convention, Subject, Calculation, Analogy)
September 8, 2018
Doing Mathematics discusses some ways mathematicians and mathematical physicists do their work and the subject matters they uncover and fashion. The conventions they adopt, the subject areas they delimit, what they can prove and calculate about the physical world, and the analogies they discover and employ, all depend on the mathematics what will work out and what won’t. The cases studied include the central limit theorem of statistics, the sound of the shape of a drum, the connections between algebra and topology, and the series of rigorous proofs of the stability of matter. The many and varied solutions to the two-dimensional Ising model of ferromagnetism make sense as a whole when they are seen in an analogy developed by Richard Dedekind in the 1880s to algebraicize Riemann’s function theory; by Robert Langlands’ program in number theory and representation theory; and, by the analogy between one-dimensional quantum mechanics and two-dimensional classical statistical mechanics. In effect, we begin to see ‘an identity in a manifold presentation of profiles,’ as the phenomenologists would say.