Derek K. Wise

I'm a mathematical physicist, currently in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Erlangen.

Previously, I was a Postdoc at the Institute for Quantum Gravity (2010-2013), a VIGRE Assistant Professor of Mathematics at U.C. Davis (2007-2010) My Ph.D. (Mathematics, 2007, UC Riverside) was supervised by John Baez.


My essay on the relationship between mathematics and physics has won Third Prize in the 2015 FQXi essay competition. Here it is:

How not to factor a miracle
Derek K. Wise

Abstract: Wigner's famous and influential claim that mathematics is "unreasonably effective" in physics is founded on unreasonable assumptions about the nature of mathematics and its independence of physics. Here I argue that what is surprising is not the effectiveness of mathematics but the amenability of physics to reductionist strategies. I also argue that while our luck may run out on the effectiveness of reduction, mathematics is still our best hope for surpassing this obstacle. While I agree that human understanding of the natural world in mathematical terms evinces a miracle, I see no way to factor out the human dimension of this miracle.

It's a short essay, and rather ambitious in its coverage given the length, but that's part of the fun! A somewhat extended version of it should appear in an upcoming Springer book, along with contributions from authors of the other winning essays.

Contact data:

Department Mathematik
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Cauerstraße 11
D-91058 Erlangen

d r k w s @ a . e  e e . i e f u d

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