Mathematics

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Counting Weeks and Days

There is a Biblical Commandment to count the days between the Passover and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Pentecost). We start counting on the second day of Passover (the first day of the barley harvest in the land of Israel, when the wave-offering of the omer, i.e., “sheaf,” of ripe barley was made in the Jerusalem Temple) and finish on the eve of Shavuot—the day when two loaves of bread made of wheat were offered at the Temple. There are exactly seven weeks (forty-nine days) between these two holidays; we are commanded to count the weeks and the days. These forty-nine days are called days of Sefirat HaOmer (the ays of “counting the Omer”) or simple days of Sefirah. This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And ye shall count [...]

Wigner’s Friend Receives a Death Threat

It is related that on the day that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi died, the Sages decreed a fast, and begged for divine mercy so that he would not die. And they said: Anyone who says that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi has died will be stabbed with a sword. (Talmud, tr. Ketubot 104a)   We find an interesting example of the Wigner’s Friend paradox in the Gemara quoted above. The Gemara discusses the circumstances surrounding the death of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Juda the Prince, knows simply as the Rebbi), one of the greatest sages of Israel, who compiled Oral Torah in the Mishnah. Why did the Sages issued a death threat to “anyone who says that Rabbi has died” promising that he “will be stabbed with a sword”? The medieval Talmudist Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi (1520-1592), in [...]

The Primacy of the Prime Numbers

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying: “We came to thy brother Esau, and moreover he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.” (Genesis 32:7) On this blog, we primarily focus on structural parallels between Torah and Physics and, more specifically, quantum physics. Today I would like to explore an interesting parallel between this Torah portion and the number theory. In my previous essay on the Torah Portion Vayishlach, “Jacob Meets Esau and his 400 men,” I wrote “Esau and his 400 men together were 401 strong. 401 is a prime number that is the sum of seven consecutive prime numbers (43+47+53+59+61+67+71).” In that essay, I focused on the significance of the number seven. Let us now focus on the significance of the prime number. The structural parallel I see [...]

Fitting Pieces of the Puzzle Together

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – IV This is the fourth and the final installment in the series of posts related to Ezekiel’s prophesy, Ma’aseh Merkava, “The Making of the Chariot.” For background information, refer to the previous posts, “Space – Between Future and Past,” “Relational Space,” and “Collapse of the Wave Function.” Regular readers of my blog may be wondering about my last post “Futurist Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics,” which was about my new interpretation of quantum mechanics. This is not a physics blog, however; the Quantum Torah blog is about Torah and physics (or, more broadly, Torah and science). What did the last post have to do with Torah? Hopefully, it will all now become clear. Last Shavuot I had a very unusual experience. Sitting in shul listening to the reading [...]

Relational Space

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – II This post is a sequel to my previous post, “Space – Between Future and Past.” For background information, the reader is referred to that post. My second Shavuot “epiphany” was that space is relational. Not that I realized that space was relational for the first time – I always thought so. But, for some reason, thinking about the meaning of the four faces of Chayot, the "living creatures" – the angelic beings described in the prophecy of Ezekiel that we read on Shavuot – made it absolutely clear in my mind. Isaac Newton The debate about the nature of space goes back at least to the times of Newton and Leibniz. Isaac Newton believed (as it is apparent from his mechanics and as it [...]

Space – Between Future and Past

Meditations on the Maaseh Merkavah – I We do science by studying nature. We study physics in a lab, peering into space, or working out mathematical models with pencil and paper to see if they fit experimental data. However, great mystics of the past were able to see how this world operates by gazing into spiritual worlds above. On Shavuot, the holiday when we celebrate the revelation on Mount Sinai, we read the prophecy of Ezekiel (the First Vision of Ezekiel) called Maaseh Merkavah (or Ma'aseh Merkabah) – Work of the Chariot. Masters of Kabbalah have taught us that understanding the Work of the Chariot gives the initiated an understanding of the works of nature. This Shavuot, studying and thinking about Maaseh Merkavah, I came to understand some profound insights about the physics [...]

Ten Sephirot and Special Relativity

The Special Theory of Relativity, published by Albert Einstein in 1905, was a game changer. It ushered the era of new physics dubbed by some as the “Jewish physics.” And Jewish physics it was. At the core of Special Relativity is the notion of the relativity of motion – all motion is not absolute, as Newton thought, but is relative to something else, to a particular point of view. In physics, we define a point of view as a frame of reference. If you are standing in a moving train, leaving the railroad platform, in your frame of reference (which is always at rest) the train is at rest relative to your frame of reference. The railroad platform, on the other hand, is moving with respect to your frame of reference. For someone [...]

The Puzzle of Pi

March 14 is celebrated by nerds around the world as the Pi Day. When written in digits, 3/14 represents first three digits of the number traditionally represented by the Greek letter “π” (pronounced pi) – 3.14. Pi Day is celebrated by eating pie and discussing the significance of π. Some folks who have too much time on their hands compete at memorizing decimal digits representing the value of pi. The record presently stands at 67,890 digits! While eating pie is optional, discussing the significance of π is truly mandatory. So, what is π and why is to so important? π is arguably the most famous mathematical constant, expressing the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. If you take a circle with a diameter of 1, the circumference of this [...]

Vectors, Spins, and Gender

Vectors, Spins, and Gender Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering. (Ex. 25:2) Every physics professor teaching physics 101 to freshmen spends the first lecture teaching vector algebra. Why vectors are so important? Because most quantities in mechanics (a branch of physics dealing with motion and forces) are vectors. A vector is a mathematical object that has a magnitude and a direction. For example, velocity is a vector – it shows not only how fast the object is moving, but also in what direction it is moving (it is different from “speed” which is an average velocity and is just a number). Similarly, acceleration is a vector, force is a vector, angular [...]

Fractal Tu B’Shevat

When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by wielding an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, but thou shalt not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of thee? (Deut. 20:19) On Tu B’Shevat we celebrate the New Year of the trees. There is much to be said about the legal, ecological, homiletical, and mystical meaning of this day. And, indeed, much has been written about this minor holiday from these perspectives. In this post, however, I’d like to focus on the mathematical and biological aspects of this holiday that, to my knowledge, had not been discussed until now. When the Torah rhetorically asks, [...]

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