Larry Susanka's Personal Pages

Welcome! Local time in Bellevue Washington is 03:31:33 and the date is 05/21/24. For those who need to target an ICBM, I spend a considerable amount of time near N=47.56° E=-122.13° and much of the rest near N=47.16° E=-120.94°. We are -8:00 in relation to GMT.

The various pages that comprise this site have been accessed 2427503 times since the counter was created in March 1998.

Currently I have an active interest in physics, rock and ice climbing, mathematics, horses and running mountain trails.

I am a supporter of The Planetary Society, various skeptical organizations such as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and am a fan of science fiction, in its myriad forms.

I also pretend to study Spanish and guitar. We'll see.



Q: Why is mathematics so effective as a tool in describing parts of the physical world?

A: Mathematics is not a random collection of facts. It was created by the minds of individuals. Though it pleases us to imagine that we can think any kind of thought, that is an illusion. Our "idea space" is highly constrained by the process that created the thinking engine.

Our distant ancestors used their proto-minds as images of certain relevant parts of the external so they could anticipate better or faster and generally be more effective at passing on genes. An early example of this might have been an oozing toward or away from a higher concentration of a chemical in the water. An impulse like this, by its survival, contains information about the world.

As these impulses accumulated a "negotiator" would be highly advantageous, to "break ties" and avoid paralysis. The collection of impulses and negotiators, together, would be the proto-mind. The proto-mind itself could be thought of as a genetically encoded memory of past contact with the external, with properties assembled by random mutation but selected for over eons by ability to confer advantage.

The genes that created the proto-mind were "survivor genes," selected over eons precisely because they increased the fidelity of the mirror they generate to parts of the external.

Billions of years of evolution created better and better internal models of parts of the external and added individual memories - an enormous advance that would allow for (evanescent) improvement of the model during the lifetime of an individual. Volition, or a means to probe the boundaries of increasingly sophisticated models would benefit individuals with memory if done cautiously. Both of these might come through changes to the "tie-breaker" mechanism.

A means to transmit useful memories among related individuals would also be selected for if it should ever arise. Curiosity or even outright recklessness in probing the boundaries of the growing model would benefit the genes if there were a means of transmitting memories of the outcome among related individuals.

We could go on with this, and it is a long way from the ruminations found above to consciousness and self-awareness, but we need to get back to the question:

Mathematics is a consciously created model of parts of the mind - a structure formed over eons and used by individuals to effectively interact with the external. It is an intentional mirror image of a natural mirror image of the world. It fits onto parts of the world which are important to us by the very nature of the structure which created it. We think those parts are important because the genes that form the mind that created mathematics tells us they are important. Those genes survived because they were "right" in some sense.

Q: Can you list the implicit assumptions in the question and in your answer with which people might take issue?

A: Not on one page. Not on many pages. But it works for me!

The following items strike me as interesting, funny or valuable in some way. I will add or change content from time to time. Enjoy!

  • Math Notes of Various Kinds ...
    Last modified on 04/19/24 at 12:42.

  • The BC Mathematics and Physics Colloquium Series
    Last modified on 05/16/24 at 12:09.

  • Macintosh Links
    Last modified on 06/13/19 at 19:02.

  • Math and Science Links
    Last modified on 02/8/24 at 11:58.

  • Science Fiction Links
    Last modified on 09/1/20 at 18:01.

  • Favorite Climbing Sites
    Last modified on 06/13/19 at 17:32.

  • Skeptical Thoughts ...
    Last modified on 06/13/19 at 19:01.

  • Oddities and Unclassified Miscellany
    Last modified on 06/13/19 at 19:04.

  • Seattle Sites and Information
    Last modified on 06/13/19 at 19:02.

  • A Collection of Photos ...
    Last modified on 06/13/19 at 19:03.

  • A Few Web Resources:
    A Remnant of the Original Web Pages at BC.
    (Some of these pages date from 1996.)

  • The Mount Si Race
    Last modified on 06/13/19 at 19:05.

  • I can be contacted by e-mail at
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    My PGP public key can be found on the public keyservers and also here.
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    This page was last modified on 05/16/24 at 12:19.