The Mathematical Order of Nature


Fall 2013 quarter

Taught by

computer science, mathematics

This program introduces the logical, historical, mathematical and computational foundations of our understanding of nature that we call physics. Students in the program will study the evolution of rational thought, mathematical abstraction and physical theories of nature in the history of science. The intellectual tools of our investigations will be the systems of logic, mathematical modeling and computer programming that we use today for understanding our material world.

Early Greek philosophers dared to assume that humanity could comprehend the true nature of the universe and the material world through rational thought. Using historical readings, we will investigate key conceptual developments in the evolution of scientific and mathematical thought from those early intellectual explorations to the 20th century.

We will study logic and its relationship to early Greek rational thought, contemporary critical reasoning and scientific theories. We will see that careful contemplation and observation of the physical world from the early natural philosophers to the modern physicists have revealed an underlying order and led to the surprising conclusion that mathematics, computation and the nature of physical reality are deeply connected. We will learn the powerful formal systems of logic, modeling and computing into which the ideas of the early Greek philosophers have evolved today as the basis of our understanding.

Class activities will include hands-on laboratory work along with lectures, workshops, weekly readings, seminar discussions, written essays and weekly homework problems.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

logic, critical reasoning, mathematics, physics, computing, computer science, education and the history of science. Students taking this program will be well prepared to enter either the Computer Science Foundations program or the Models of Motion, Matter and Interaction program in the winter and spring quarters.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Registration Information

Credits: 12 (Fall)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 33% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Number not yet available.

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