Hey Bill Nye! Do Laws of Math Apply near Black Holes and the Edge of Space?
Calculus was invented by Isaac Newton in the middle of the 17th century, so does a historically contingent event hold true everywhere in the universe, even near black holes? Bill Nye the Science Guy replies to a Big Think fan.
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.
In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.
While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.
Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
Thomas: My name is Thomas and I'm from Los Angeles California and I was wondering if mathematics is truly universal? I'm not disputing it I'm just really wondering if mathematics, such as calculus, really like is the same near the edges of the universe? For all that we know or like near black holes because do mathematical laws breakdown? Thanks.
Bill Nye: Thomas, that is a great question about mathematics. As far as we know it works everywhere. Now, if we go to a place, as you suggested near a black hole, the edge of the universe, and mathematics doesn't work, we would say to ourselves well there's just mathematics that we don't understand and we have to add some more math to our canon of mathematical equations. It's very reasonable that there's math that's nobody knows how it works, but just understand that when it comes to the motion of planets, when it comes to how rockets work, when it comes to the paths of comets and asteroids and meteors, we understand this stuff inside out. However, it was only in the 1600s that these discoveries were made and so you'll also hear people talk all the time about the singularity. The singularity. And this to me is when you get one over zero. And one over zero is infinite, or it is unknowable. And I'll give you an example.
What's one thousandth? What's bigger one tenth or one thousandth? A tenth is bigger than a thousandth. Okay. Then what's bigger, one thousandth or one the thousandths? A thousandth is bigger. All right, now what about one over one ten thousandth? That's the thousand. But one over one millionth is a million. One over a billionth is one billion. So as the number get smaller and smaller the total, the inverse, the denominator causes the quantity to become bigger. And so if it's over zero it would become infinity or infinite, and nobody knows what happens at infinity. No one knows what's happens exactly at the singularity. Oh people speculate, but as near as we can tell math applies everywhere. That is a great question. Thank you.
Calculus was invented by Isaac Newton in the middle of the 17th century, so does a historically contingent event hold true everywhere in the universe, even near black holes and at the edge of outer space? Yes, as far we know, mathematical laws are universal, says Bill Nye the Science Guy. Since the invention of calculus, we have come to know the movement of planets, asteroids, comets, etc. with highly accurate detail. And we can predict their movement regardless of where they are in the universe.
It is at least possible, however, that our present mathematical canon is insufficient to describe events everywhere in outer space. But that would mean that current laws were incomplete, not that they were wrong or failed to be universal. Humans are always adding to current mathematical models, and it's conceivable that major new mathematical discoveries have yet to be made. One such discovery may relate to "the singularity," or one divided by zero.
The result of this division is either unknowable or infinite, depending on your preference, says Bill Nye. In this video clip, he explains a series of mathematical problems that demonstrate how counterintuitive numbers can be, and how speculative their conclusions can become.