This week will follow the format of a reading group rather than a seminar talk. The paper we will discuss is ‘Theoretical Mathematics’ by Arthur Jaffe and Frank Quinn in which they argue for a ‘cultural synthesis of mathematics and theoretical physics’. In particular, Jaffe and Quinn draw an analogy between the role of experiments in physics and the role of proofs in mathematics. When it was published in 1993 it caused quite a stir and elicited responses from many mathematicians and theoretical physicists, such as Edward Witten and Michael Atiyah. I will introduce the points made in the paper and will discuss its context and some of the responses. Then I will lead a discussion, taking the paper as a starting point for considering the similarities and differences between mathematics and (theoretical) physics, focusing on their aims and methods. If you’d like to read the paper in advance of the session, you can find it at https://arxiv.org/abs/math/9307227 .
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