282 V. MATHEMATICS A A LANGUAGE |
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if we consider a set of elements
a, b, c., and we have a rule for combining them, say O, and if the result of combining any two members of the set is itself a member of the set, such aggregate is said to have the 'group property'.Thus, if we take numbers or colours, for instance, and the rule which we accept is '+', we say that a number or a colour is transformed by this rule into a number or a colour, and so both possess the 'group property'. Obviously, by performing the given operation, we have transformed one element into another; yet some characteristics of our elements have remained invariant under transformation. Thus, if 1 is a number and 2 is a number, the operation '-[-' transforms 1 into 3, since 1 +2 = 3; but 3 has the character of being a number; so this characteristic is preserved or remains invariant. Similarly, with colours, if we add colours, these are transformed, but remain colours, and so both sets have the 'group property'. Keyser suggests that the 'mental' processes have the group property, which is undoubtedly true.
^{1}The role this theory plays in our language is of great importance, because in it we find a method of search for structure, and a method by which we can establish a similarity of structure between the un-speakable objective level and the verbal level, based on invariance of relations which are found or discovered in both.
The role of groups in physical theory is best described by quoting Professor Rainich. (Remarks in brackets are mine.) 'A physicist, we may take it, is a person who measures according to certain rules. Let us denote by
a the number he obtained in a given situation by applying the rule number one, by b the number obtained in the same situation by measuring according to rule number two and so on (a may be e.g. the volume, b the pressure, c the temperature of gas in a given container). The physicist finds further that the results of measurements of the same kind undertaken in different situations satisfy certain relations, we may write, for instance:r(a,b) = c.'A mathematician is busy deducing from some given propositions other propositions; this usually leads to numbers which we may call
A, B, C, . . . . These numbers also satisfy certain relations, sayR (A,B) = C.'Then comes, as Professor Weyl says, a messenger, a go-between who may be a mathematician or a physicist, or both, and says: "If you establish a correspondence between the physical quantities and the mathematical quantities, if you assign A to a, B to b, etc., the same relations |
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