Each week the Guardian newspaper runs a Notes & Queries column where readers answer other readers’ questions. It’s been going for 15 years and often has fascinating questions and answers. I had one of my replies printed (about the VideoPlus system for numbering television programmes). It was born long before online forums became popular and spawned a number of books.
Today a question has been asked which totally astonishes me. I can’t think what the questioner thinks about mathematics.
- Gravity existed before Newton discovered it. Did mathematics exist before the first mathematician evolved?
I don’t believe it is a sophisticated question about whether mathematics is invented or discovered.
If you want to answer the question, and maybe see it published, then email your (short) answer to the column at firstname.lastname@example.org
Added 27th September: In the answers given to this question (not as far as I know available online) one contributor recommends reading Conversations on Mind, Matter and Mathematics where J.-P. Changeux and Alain Connes debate questions like
- Do numbers and the other objects of mathematics enjoy a timeless existence independent of human minds, or are they the products of cerebral invention? Do we discover them, as Plato supposed and many others have believed since, or do we construct them?