Center for Interdisziplinary Research

The Effectiveness of Mathematization

Date: August 9 - 11, 2012

Convenors: Ann Johnson (Columbia, S.C.), Johannes Lenhard (Bielefeld)

The precursor of this workshop took place at the ZiF roughly one year ago. It had shown the significance of the notion of mathematization as a topic of interdisciplinary research. Previously, mathematization has been discussed almost exclusively as a strategy of physics. The title of this workshop alludes to a well-known 1960 article where physicist Eugene Wigner famously interrogated what he referred to as "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences". The present workshop intentionally widened the perspective and surveyed various uses where mathematics is used as a tool. Consequently, the papers turned attention to human activity and investigated mathematization in the social, life, and engineering sciences. The contributions to this workshop documented that strategies of mathematization have shown effectiveness at least since the 17th/18th century, that they spanned areas from agriculture to naval architecture to materials sciences, and that they are interdependent with changing mathematical means from statistics to computational modeling. Thus, the notion of mathematization-taken in the sense of using mathematics as a tool and building mathematical models-provides a link between very heterogeneous scientific disciplines and also bridges different epochs.


Gerard Alberts (Amsterdam, NED), Stefan Böschen (Augsburg, GER), Michael D. Gordin (Princeton, USA), Ron Kline (Ithaca, USA), Andrea Loettgers (Pasadena, USA), Ben Marsden (Aberdeen, GBR), Domenico Napoletani (Fairfax, USA), Joe November (Columbia, USA), Michael Otte (Bielefeld, GER), Denise Phillips (Knoxville, USA), Beckett Sterner (Chicago, USA), Honghong Tinn (Singapur, SIN)

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