The effectiveness of mathematics in physics of the unknown

Citation data:

Synthese, ISSN: 1573-0964, Page: 1-17

Publication Year:
Usage 107
Downloads 107
Captures 5
Readers 5
Social Media 6
Tweets 5
Shares, Likes & Comments 1
Repository URL:
Grinbaum, Alexei
Springer Nature
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences
Most Recent Tweet View All Tweets
article description
If physics is a science that unveils the fundamental laws of nature, then the appearance of mathematical concepts in its language can be surprising or even mysterious. This was Eugene Wigner’s argument in 1960. I show that another approach to physical theory accommodates mathematics in a perfectly reasonable way. To explore unknown processes or phenomena, one builds a theory from fundamental principles, employing them as constraints within a general mathematical framework. The rise of such theories of the unknown, which I call blackbox models, drives home the unsurprising effectiveness of mathematics. I illustrate it on the examples of Einstein’s principle theories, the S-matrix approach in quantum field theory, effective field theories, and device-independent approaches in quantum information.