In fact it’s a fascinating topic and one that I’m weirdly obsessed with, so much so that when some friends decided to form a quarterly essay club I decided to make my contribution a quick, non-technical and — frankly — inaccurate account of the topic. Everything about this sounds exactly as nerdy as it is.

UPDATE: revised version of essay here (PDF).

But, reader, I promise you that there are bizarre personalities and soaring intellectual implications to be discovered. The essay basically looks at the debate about whether or not mathematical objects exist in the same way as do physical objects. It starts with the cult of Pythagoras and goes up to Max Tegmark’s mathematical universe. Along the way there are nervous breakdowns, the creation of new worlds, infinities within infinities, artificial intelligence and the conjecture that we ourselves are made of maths. I hope I’ve written it in a way that would have interested me (a humanities guy with no practical maths knowledge) and I hope it gives a sense of the big ideas behind mathematics that you wouldn’t know about from high school or even university maths.