Department of Mathematics FAS Harvard University One Oxford Street Cambridge MA 02138 USA Tel: (617) 495-2171 Fax: (617) 495-5132

``Why Do Math" event from May 1, 2019

Curt McMullen, Harvard University

A Skeptical History of Numbers

Also this second talk of a speaker series for undergraduates
``Why Do Math"
This is again a talk for a general audience; no math background required.

Abstract: Quantum theory, virtual particles, curved space and dark energy all emerged from a critical assessment of the foundations of physics in the 20th century. In the same period, a foundational crisis threatened the edifice of mathematics itself. Focusing on the concept of numbers, this talk will recap some of the great leaps of imagination in the history of mathematical thought, describe the foundational crisis, critique the attempts to rescue certainty, and assess the current state of affairs.