Questions tagged [mathematics]

For questions about mathematics, including our own system of mathematics and alien versions of mathematics, focusing on their effects on societies and civilizations.

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50
votes
15answers
12k views

Alien number systems - Is the decimal system special?

Is there anything about the decimal number system that conveys any advantages over any other number system? So is it any more likely that some other alien race would use base-10 numbers in everyday ...
38
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9answers
4k views

Encryption in the 19th century

Heinrich is a scientist and a scholar, one of the greatest minds of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire around 1880. He studied mathematics, physics and engineering. He patented a few of his ideas and ...
31
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15answers
12k views

Is mathematics a truly universal language?

The quote has many forms, but is basically "mathematics is a universal language." My question is if this is true? If we met aliens could we use mathematics to talk to them? The fact that we could ...
29
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10answers
10k views

How far back in time would Maths be understandable to a modern mathematician?

Shamelessly inspired by this question (sorry), but I got this question after Michael gave a answer - my mathematician would essentially have to relearn maths, as mathematics in Ancient Greece is ...
26
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11answers
5k views

Recognizable natural numbers for alien message?

It’s rather cliché that an alien message would use a value like π (actually I expect it to be 2π because Earthlings are weird), but in my story the message which contains the bootstrap information for ...
22
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3answers
6k views

How advanced can a civilization get without zero?

More or less exactly what it says on the tin. Start with a group of cavemen on prehistoric earth, discovering fire, language, wheels, etc, and walk them along the path to civilization, but with one ...
22
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10answers
13k views

A World Without Mathematics

What significant technologies would be lost in a world without "Advanced" Mathematics? Specifically, what technologies required to get to the next level of scientific progress in an area would be lost....
21
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8answers
2k views

Aliens doing algebra

Suppose we have an intelligent alien who has landed on Earth and has somehow found his way into a human high school math class (for the sake of scenic stability, the alien has the ability to cloak ...
19
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10answers
3k views

In the magic==math trope, how do “they” know when we're doing spells?

Take Charles Stross’s Laundry stories as an exemplar for this modern day approach that makes explicit the analogy between computer geeks and fantasy mages. If P = NP then magic is possible. Here’s a ...
18
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8answers
4k views

Universe where mathematics is different

There are many ways to conceive of a universe where physical constants are different to our own; however, what would the universe be like if mathematics itself were different? For instance, what ...
17
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24answers
2k views

A game to outplay Death? [closed]

Sometimes, when someone dies with things left undone, Death will be willing to play a game for the opportunity to come back to life. However, there are several reasons why you'd expect not to be able ...
17
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6answers
3k views

How would a torus world (donut shaped) have to rotate in order to have a stable day / night cycle in all of its regions?

In this universe, mass and gravity work differently so stable torus planets are possible (donut shaped). How would a torus world orbiting a single star have to rotate in order to have a stable day ...
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3answers
2k views

Gregorian Calendar and dates before its implementation - how to correctly place an event before 1582? [closed]

For dialogues occurring in the story the characters would use their respective culture/civilization calendar, but for the one writing the story a way to use a familiar calendar to place an event is ...
15
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4answers
927 views

Encountering the Accountants : Spreading Numeracy in the Neolithic World

The BBC in the UK are currently screening a archaeology series exploring the idea that the Neolithic peoples in the Orkney Isles (North of Scotland) were the cultural capital of the British Isles. ...
14
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15answers
5k views

How might a Professor of Mathematics Change History?

A professor of mathematics is sent back in time to a post-Neolithic farming village. They accept him as their wise man, and he spends 30 years teaching them all he knows about mathematics until he ...
14
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9answers
2k views

Should I use base-10 or base-12 numbers in my story? [closed]

My aliens have 2 thumbs for a stronger grip and the 2 thumbs are on opposite sides of the hand. However since there are 6 fingers total per hand and 2 hands my aliens naturally use base 12. +1 for ...
13
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4answers
970 views

If we had four digits on each hand

I once heard someone claim that if we had four digits on each hand our mathematics would be well in advance of what it is. Presumably this is because 4 is a power of 2 and those clever computers ...
10
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10answers
391 views

Adopt a new numeral system

I am creating a fictional off-solar system colony. In this colony people started to use a duodecimal positional number system. The people were all cultured in science and practical with numbers. They ...
9
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4answers
1k views

How would a mathematician compare to a scholar in Ancient Greece?

Somewhat based on this question, let's say a normal person from our world for some reason goes back into time - to the Hellenic Greece around 490 BC and somehow manages to become a philosopher. My ...
8
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1answer
322 views

Mathematics of monsters

Researching for a science fiction novel. My character loves math + I have dyscalculia = Problem. Therefore, I need your help. In my story, there are aliens we can see, but we can't hear or touch. ...
7
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5answers
4k views

How fast could earth orbit the sun without its orbit changing?

It takes the Earth about 365.25 days to orbit the Sun on its current elliptical path. That means it moves about 30 km/s, 2×π×(149,600,000 km)/(1 year). So, given that, how high could Earth's ...
7
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4answers
3k views

How much would a 3" human male weigh?

In my world, which has an Earth-like gravity and environment, an adult, fit humanoid male is 3 inches tall. When I do a simple ratio calculation, I come up with him weighing 7.9 pounds. Basically, the ...
7
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4answers
2k views

Problem for advanced mathematics?

I have a world where remnants of advanced ancient humans (tv tropes link) live among us, but we are not aware of them. Is there some problem that people with mathematics more advanced then ours would ...
7
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5answers
397 views

Velocity Difference From Teleportation

In Steven Gould's Jumper series, the main character has the ability to teleport, and he eventually realizes he automatically does frame matching when doing so - no matter where on earth his origin and ...
7
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3answers
187 views

Effects of a supermassive ship colliding with a planet

The basis of my story revolves around a single survivor escaping a massive colony ship gone critical above the skies of an alien world. After his escape via escape pod, the ship crashes halfway across ...
7
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8answers
288 views

How can I create an infinite space bound by another infinite space (or contained within it)?

First let me preface by saying this question will be very math heavy, and might be as equally suited to math stack exchange as world building. For that I apologize, but since the reason for my ...
7
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2answers
178 views

Other universes in a broad sense [closed]

When speaking about other universes people usually consider altered physical laws, while leaving logic and other basic things unchanged. What if to consider other universes based not on different ...
6
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4answers
203 views

How to facilitate inter-species communication with math?

Mathematics is considered to be the language of the universe since it is the most fundamental type of logic (in physics anyway) and therefore the best way of expressing the universe (which is a ...
6
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2answers
1k views

Airship Aircraft Carrier Dimensions

I'm currently writing a military science fiction story set in a post cyberpunk world I've been building. The story focuses on a tank crew, but it also prominently features an enormous airship that ...
6
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2answers
454 views

At what scale would negative curvature be noticeable (and a nuisance to the flat space society)?

After playing some HyperRogue, I got interested in the use of hyperbolic geometry in WorldBuilding, in particular how an area grows exponentially with respect to its radius. Let's say that the ...
5
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5answers
757 views

If I had an alien race, how would they interpret our numerical characters as being numbers?

So say we discovered aliens through a wormhole near Saturn (Interstellar anyone?). Congratz to us! But we have a bigger issue in trying to communicate with them. They developed in a completely ...
5
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3answers
124 views

Calculating the Resistance of Water, for Purposes of Violence

I'm writing a story about mermaids. For this reason, I'm wondering how much you can hurt someone by say, throwing a punch, hitting them with a rock, or even throwing a spear or rock. I'm not sure how ...
5
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3answers
199 views

historical examples of alternative typeset representations

In a scenario where scientists decipher a Math book of an alien culture, the last thing to expect is equations presented the way we know them.The way we write mathematical equations, is mostly taken ...
5
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1answer
406 views

What would produce tetration in physics?

In a parallel universe much of the physics equation have tetration in them. There are things such as tetrational growth as well as tetrational decay. $x^x$ and $x^{x^x}$ are also found in some ...
4
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8answers
399 views

Could a mathematical constant actually change? [closed]

(Note: I have a degree in mathematics, but this question goes a bit beyond that.) Take a value like pi ($\pi$). Only a mere handful of decimals is all we could empirically verify to be "true" (...
4
votes
4answers
317 views

Computers in a society whose mathematics is limited to geomety

Consider a society whose mathematics never developed numbers. Instead, the entirety of their mathematics is highly developed geometry (the kind of work done in the first few books of Euclid's Elements)...
3
votes
7answers
275 views

How could someone calculate all potential outcomes of an action?

In my universe, some individuals possess the capacity to assess all outcomes for an action. As you can imagine, this is very useful. The only way I can think of a plausible way to make that happen is ...
3
votes
3answers
250 views

Could geniuses of the past catch up in a few months?

A historical college is facing closure, due their failing job placement, inflated grades and rumors that its nothing but a diploma mill. The last chance for the new president to persuade to the ...
3
votes
4answers
279 views

Accuracy of timekeeping based on the age of Earth

In many countries, we number the years based off of proximity to an event in the Christian religion - we are over 2016 years past that date. However, in this scenario, religion has become less ...
3
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5answers
396 views

Terraform Mars or Dyson Ring?

Background: The main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is the closest and richest source of non terrestrial resources to Earth in the solar system. Even though it is vast its resources are ...
3
votes
2answers
212 views

Given an infinite set of universes, how would one identify which universe they are from? [closed]

Terry is writing a book that he's publishing in several universes (this is distinct from several versions of Terry publishing in their respective universes). He needs to identify which universe he ...
3
votes
5answers
425 views

Developing Counting Systems [duplicate]

It’s common knowledge that (most) modern societies use arabic numerals, and moreover use base 10 for counting. That is, you count from 1 to 9 (unless you’re a programmer and you start at 0) and then ...
3
votes
2answers
166 views

Operations coded for in DNA, Reasonable? [closed]

In my Math World story, all numbers are of a single race, no matter the base, irrational or rational, complex or geometry, same race. Sexual Reproduction is different in 3 ways actually, meiosis, ...
2
votes
5answers
243 views

Is my celestial coordinate system efficient?

I want to know whether or not my starship's cordinate system is efficient or not. Soon after my race flew into the stars, we realised we needed to be able to tell where we were. We need coordinate ...
2
votes
3answers
343 views

Population Growth of an Extraterrestrial Colony

Okay, i need help here. I'm sure this question has been asked before and if it has, please refer me to it. But a story I have been working on for a while now revolves around the adventures of a colony ...
2
votes
1answer
173 views

What if the laws of mathematics were different in a parallel universe? [duplicate]

Mathematics is the base of everything. What would happen if the laws of mathematics would be differend in an universe? How would the universe work, what would be the laws of physics, etc... Examples ...
2
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1answer
172 views

Upscaling Insects and the effect resulting upon their biology

Assuming the information in this video by the Cambridge University is correct, Planthoppers can jump as far as a meter. Their size ranges from 1cm in cooler climates to 5cm in the tropics. With ...
2
votes
2answers
227 views

How would a culture with a continuous language behave? [closed]

Suppose that there is a race of humanoid beings whose mouth parts are able to make a wide, continuous range of sounds (as opposed to humans who I'm considering to have a medium-sized discrete range of ...
2
votes
1answer
118 views

Modifying the definition of action

Why magic and physics cannot coexist peacefully? After reading many physics and math stuff, I think that the problem maybe come from the principle of least action. So, I edited the definition of ...
2
votes
1answer
432 views

Calculating G-Force and Velocity

Simplifying a larger problem. Building a sci-fi text game and I don't want the science to be too wrong. Imagine I have two points in space which are 111,125 kilometers apart and it takes 17 minutes ...