what came first: maths or matter / observer or particle

Just read some interesting news in an article written by one of my favorite science journalist, Karin Boys, in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter:

they have found the physical existence of the magically beautiful E8-pattern – displayed in the image here below – one of the most complex mathematical concepts in the world which took weeks for a hall of super-computers to calculate and resulted in 400 000 printed pages. Researchers have been hoping that E8 is connected to the search for the great Theory of Unification, which shall bring together Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics (which is not possible with todays maths). And now symmetries from this pattern was discovered by a group of German and English physicists when they froze cobalt nitrate to the absolute 0-point, which made the electrons arrange themselves in kind of rows or chains. Then they exposed this to magnetic fields, and in the magnetic fluctuations which evolved the strikingly beautiful E8 pattern was spotted.

by Claudio Rocchini (wikipedia)

I mean, if it came down to looks I’d so far wote for this pattern to be the door to open the true Unification theory, it is just really amazing, isn’t it?!

This is not the first time mathematicians has calculated something which physicists did not yet know of, or they even considered impossible. The last time such a discovery was made was in 1974 by Sir Roger Penrose, who I actually made an 1 hour long interview with in the Vienna Riesenrad back in 2004. He calculated something called quasicrystals, a pattern of two shapes which can repeat endlessly without repeating a pattern. This was considered completely impossible, but was later found, for example in a type of stone in Siberia, and has even shown to have quite some practical use to it.

I’ve been refreshing my knowledge on quantum mechanics during the past week, so this discovery came very hand in hand with my thoughts and questions at the moment. Even if I have been warned that Quantum Mechanics does not describe reality, I cannot help but being fascinated by the ontological thoughts connected to this young branch of physic, like the thoughts in the film in my previous post. The fact that human observation decides the outcome of real, physical experiments, no matter on what level, must make anyone ask:

How much of reality do we really create? Does these patterns really exist, or are they created because we expect to find them?

It is like asking:  what comes first, the observer or the particle? And I write “comes” and not “came” but I mean at the beginning of existence, but in Quantum Mechanics time is put out of work, or everything happens at once, or maybe time exists because we imagine that it does, or it is just very much more complex than any of that…

Or really simple – who knows…

What one probably can be quite sure of, is that if the mathematicians had not calculated the E8, the physicists would probably not have found it, since they would not have known what they were looking for.


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