© 2016

Trick or Truth?

The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics

  • Anthony Aguirre
  • Brendan Foster
  • Zeeya Merali

Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Anthony Aguirre, Brendan Foster, Zeeya Merali
    Pages 1-4
  3. Sylvia Wenmackers
    Pages 5-20
  4. M. S. Leifer
    Pages 21-40
  5. Tommaso Bolognesi
    Pages 55-66
  6. Ian T. Durham
    Pages 67-75
  7. Tim Maudlin
    Pages 91-102
  8. Derek K. Wise
    Pages 119-127
  9. David Garfinkle
    Pages 129-133
  10. Nicolas Fillion
    Pages 135-144
  11. Noson S. Yanofsky
    Pages 145-156
  12. Alexey Burov, Lev Burov
    Pages 157-170
  13. Sophía Magnúsdóttir
    Pages 171-182
  14. Sara Imari Walker
    Pages 183-192
  15. Christine C. Dantas
    Pages 193-200
  16. Anshu Gupta Mujumdar, Tejinder Singh
    Pages 201-217
  17. Philip Gibbs
    Pages 219-232

About this book


The prize-winning essays in this book address the fascinating but sometimes uncomfortable relationship between physics and mathematics. Is mathematics merely another natural science? Or is it the result of human creativity? Does physics simply wear mathematics like a costume, or is math the lifeblood of physical reality?

The nineteen wide-ranging,  highly imaginative and often entertaining essays are enhanced versions of the prize-winning entries to the FQXi essay competition “Trick or Truth”, which attracted over 200 submissions.

The Foundational Questions Institute, FQXi, catalyzes, supports, and disseminates research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality, but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources.


Relationship of physics and mathematics Unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics Mathematics and physical reality FQXi essays Mathematical universe hypothesis Ontology of mathematics Philosophy of mathematics

Editors and affiliations

  • Anthony Aguirre
    • 1
  • Brendan Foster
    • 2
  • Zeeya Merali
    • 3
  1. 1.Dept of PhysicsUC Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.Foundational Questions InstituteDecaturUSA
  3. 3.Foundational Questions InstituteDecaturUSA

About the editors

Anthony Aguirre
Brendan Foster
Zeeya Merali

Bibliographic information


“The entries were rigorously judged and this book is a collection of the best entries. … the content is accessible to the general, albeit knowledgeable, reader. These essays are very well written. The result is a great book in the philosophy of science, the relationship between the human brain and its ability to abstract to the way the universe runs as a consequence of the values of the fundamental constants of physics.” (Charles Ashbacher, MAA Reviews,, August, 2016)