# What is the difference between physics and mathematics?

There is one big difference between people who don't understand math and those who seem to have intuitive grasp on it. People in fist category usually think that math is about numbers, while people in the second one will confidently disagree. Math is about nature in it's most fundamental form. Numbers is just one particular example.

^{ Image from Pixabay }

Math is often described as purest form of science, and science for some mysterious reasons is often viewed as opposite of nature. Nothing can be further from truth. We haven't invented gravity, electromagnetism or thermodynamics. It's something that exists whether we care about it or not. It's the part of reality, and the fact that we can explain it's influence on the world around us does not change what it is.

Numbers are the easiest example: 2 + 1 = 3 not because scientists say so, but because it is what it is. Because whenever you have 2 things of something and you add another something to it - you get three somethings. It works the same way for apples, atoms and galaxies, because that's what math is about: the most basic rules of reality, those which don't depend on a context.

That's actually the main difference I see between physics and math. Physics *does* differentiate between objects. Atom of hydrogen is fundamentally different from atom of oxygen and is treated as such. Even two hydrogen atoms might be different, depending on their states and conditions. Light travels differently through air and through water. Numbers aren't like that. You will not see sentences like this in any math book:

it is recommended to calculate derivative of the functions in the second week of January outside of deep gravity wells to get the most precise results

Even physicists that work in most abstract theoretical fields need to establish "rules of engagements" before getting to work: describe the conditions and rules for the predicted phenomenon. Mathematicians are lucky, they can get directly to business with "there exists *x* such that... ".

Seems like mathematicians have unfair advantage then. But that's not exactly true. The same core difference, dependence from context, allows physicists to test their theories in the real world. Physics benefited immensely from all the practical experiments throughout the history, from simple ones like double slid experiment to ginormous projects like Large Hadron Collider. In math, the only tool available is human brains. Yes, you can calculate some things on a computer, but computer will only do what it was programmed to do, it can not verify consistency of the theory, for example.

Physicists dream of finding famous "Theory of Everything" - unified rule or set of rules that would explain everything we know about the universe. I would argue that if such thing were to exist it would be as much a mathematical theorem as it would be physical theory. Since such theory by definition works in all possible physical environments, it does not need a context. A rule applicable in any context can be only classified as math. So theory of everything not only unifies multitude of physical laws and principles, it also blurs the line between physics and math.

But physics being context-aware is not a means to an end, we might want to dig deeper and think *why* physics is like that. I think this stems from the fact that we are discovering physics from top to bottom: reverse-engineer nature's complex behaviour into its constituent parts. With mathematics we go in opposite direction: building complex structures from simple blocks already known to us.

Can it be that they will eventually meet in the middle? What if some advanced branch of mathematics will suddenly explain phenomena we observe in quantum world?..

cortexx (57)4 years agoHypothetically speaking;

If we vibrate frequency different from aliens out there, therefore the way we perceive nature is also different from aliens the way they perceive nature.Since mathematics is the language of science or nature our way of communicating to them, hence aliens out there also had a different language communicating their own nature of reality, the faster inventions of a new language would mean a faster perception to our core reality. :)jenkinrocket (64)4 years agoThis is a very interesting article. I agree that a lot of people see science as somehow running counter to nature, and I also think it's a little silly.

However, I think there is a philosophical question as to whether numbers exist without us to perceive them. Is 2 an inherent trait of the universe that exists apart from humans? If so, where is "2" located, exactly?

But strangely, even though I think that, I also think that physics is essentially math by another name. This is strange because I am much more confident that physics

isan inherent trait of the universe.When you show statements about physics people having to vary their measurements based on conditions, all you're saying is that in physics there is more of a need to reduce the amount of 'noise' variable that will affect results... however, these variables are still inherently interconnected dependent variables and are therefore a form of mathematics.

laxam (57)4 years agoThanks for the thoughtful comment, @jenkinrocket. It's very interesting to read your thoughts about this topic.

I'm aware about philosophical argument about math as invention vs math as discovery. For me personally, concept of 2 is as real as concept of information, for example.

Informationis not attached to any physical place and might be viewed as a purely abstract concept, yet it is clearly defined in physical phenomena like uncertainty principle.Physical environment (noise) can be modelled through math, but when you're working with pure math you never (as far as I know) have to think about this kind of inherently uncontrollable variables, because environment is essentially defined by you (or arises from other precise mathematical definitions).

kellycomatose (42)4 years ago (edited)yes please always down for some #science/ #astronomy/ #physics

#sciencechannel 4Life

#cosmos #howtheunverseworks #spacenerd

thank you @laxam for the post

distillationsbl (36)4 years agoSuch a fascinating/perplexing question... I'm so frustrated because I got an undergrad degree in philosophy but didn't get into these sorts of deeper metaphysical questions until after I graduated, almost 2 yrs ago now.

One of the best things I've read that I think gets to the heart of the relationship between mathematics and the physical world is Eugene Wigner's, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" whose title sort of speaks for itself!

Here's two quotes from Wigner's paper linked above that you might find relevant,

I'm not a mathematician but I love admiring from afar, and I've been seriously considering diving back into the subject. I would guess that if I have a genuine interest then cranking out "homework" will be a bit more bearable than in high school haha

Thanks for the post! It was an enjoyable read!

laxam (57)4 years agoThank you for wonderful feedback.

I'm not a mathematician as well, I enjoy it in the same way I enjoy philosophy - it's a great exercise for mind, and can be something to ponder about when you're bored. :) I can recommend 3Blue1Brown youtube channel for this kind of "conceptual" math. By the way, I also never liked math during my education, go figure...

Thanks for Wigner's quotes, very interesting.

distillationsbl (36)4 years ago (edited)That video was A++... I've been surfing around and taking occasional dips into Khan Academy, but I like the way this guy was explaining everything. And even the comments!!

This is the second comment on the video and I related

immediately.I unfortunately did not qualify as a 'leaper' and got left behind, aka taught myself the material through Khan Academy the night before the test. My teacher could not grasp the intuitions underlying the formalisms... there were entire sections she could only teach using some heuristic she learned in HER high school days and was incapable of explaining it to us!!

I digress...

I'm really hoping Steemit turns out to be a fruitful place to learn a subject like mathematics in a peer-to-peer/collective way. Or at least to find good resources. But looks like it's off to a good start! :)

jerrybanfield (74)4 years agoThank you for collaborating with me to promote this post as explained at https://steemit.com/steemit/@jerrybanfield/10-ways-to-fund-a-steem-growth-project.

adriamguillen (36)4 years agovery good explanation. Greetings to all lovers of mathematics and its derivatives. @laxam

laxam (57)4 years agoGracias.

Math is great, I wish I would have more time to study it. And physics too :)

adriamguillen (36)4 years agoI do not study as such, but I study engineering and the best thing that exists is mathematics is the explanation of everything. I hope you support me with a vote, greeting. I follow you @laxam

kaminoteki (45)4 years agogreat explaination and I think to make the difference simple:

Math is the theory behind all things

physics are more the functional part in reality

or do I see it wrong here?

laxam (57)4 years agoIn a nutshell you are correct, plus one complication that on some level they might be the same thing.

appreciator (66)4 years agoThis post has received gratitude of 1.46 % from @appreciator thanks to: @laxam.

asyrafmuza (36)4 years ago (edited)this is a nice post, please follow and upvote me too

boomerang (53)4 years agoThis post has received a 11.8 % upvote from @boomerang thanks to: @laxam

masterwu (59)4 years agoCan one do physics without mathematics? I'd like to hear your opinion on that.

upmewhale (65)4 years agoYou got a 32.22% upvote from @upmewhale courtesy of @laxam!

breezin (69)4 years agoJust goes to show what a huge difference a persons perception can make within their own reality!

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