SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search




MATHEMATICS AND Tllli NERVOUS SYSTEMS 283
hold for the physical quantities as for the corresponding mathematical quantities so that" [Similarity of structure.]
'In the course of time new procedures of measurement are invented, some physical relations do not find their counterpart in the mathematical theory, the mathematical theory has to be patched up by introducing new quantities till too many quantities appear in it which do not correspond to physical quantities; then comes the phenomenological point of view and sweeps the theory out of applied mathematicsthe theory becomes pure mathematics once more, and physicists begin to look around for a new theory. Everybody can find examples for this situation; it is enough to mention the Bohr atom which was not even mentioned today only fifteen years after its introduction.
'However the theory of groups which is being applied to physics is not just one of many mathematical theories of the character described above; its application is of a far more fundamental nature and we shall be able to indicate what it is by analysing further the scheme outlined above.
'It may happen, and in fact it happens often, that the same mathematical theory can be applied to the same physical facts in more than one way; for instance, instead of assigning to the physical quantities a,b, . . . the mathematical quantities A,B, ... we might have assigned to them A',B', . . . with the same results, that is, the relations for physical quantities are the same as for the mathematical quantities corresponding to them now (think of space considered from the experimental point of viewand of coordinate geometry; different ways of establishing a correspondence result from different choices of coordinate axes). If this happens it means that the mathematical theory possesses a peculiar property, namely, that if A' is substituted for A, B' for B and so on, no relation of the type R(A,B) =C which was correct before the substitution is destroyed; in other words, there are substitutions or transformations for which all relations are invariant. All such transformations constitute what we call a group; the existence and the properties of such a group present a very important characteristic of the mathematical theory. Moreover it is clear that if two different mathematical theories can be appliedin the sense described aboveto the same physical theory, the groups of these two theories will be essentially the same, so that the groups reflect some of the most fundamental properties of physical systems.'2
The connection between groups and structure is described by Professor Shaw as follows: 'The first branch of dynamic mathematics is the theory of operations. It includes the general theory of operators