Four Wrongs of Math

I used to be a math teacher, back in my school years, I used to wonder that why did my teachers all write equations so that they are all equal to zero?

And so now, I have a math koan for those whose kamma is inclined towards mathematics.

Four Wrongs of Math.

We get used to write equations in this way without knowing that it is not even a bit correct, for example, the equation: x2 - 2x + 3 = 0, thus we write.

But the more correct form should be: 0 = x2 - 2x + 3

But it is still wrong, the right way should be: = x2 - 2x + 3

Ok, not entirely correct yet, absolutely the correct way must be :

Oh no, this is still wrong and right, shouldn’t it thus be: =


I prefer: 0 = world^2 - 2 world + 2




(x−a)^2 + (y−b)^2 = r^2
In the circle of samsara,
When a=x, b=y, then extinguishment…

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When r = 0, I am extinguished with no return to any state of existence. :hole:


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Don’t we want the “what i know” to be inversely related to uncertainty? So uncertainty drops as “what you know” increases?

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     = 3

nibbana is perfect non-greed, perfect non-hatred and perfect non-delusion

A nice fun DD thread of math puzzles.

Solutions to 3 of the problems in the series and from a mathematical and Buddhist perspective:

x^2 – 2x +3 = 0

This quadratic equation has no real roots solution, no matter how we write it, because its discriminant is negative. I.e. Square root of a negative number has only imaginary solutions. In this case two imaginary solutions are

x = 1 ± i √2 , where by conventional mathematical definition i = √-1 (which is not a real number)

0 = W^2 – 2W +2

This quadratic equation also has no real roots or solutions. Its imaginary solutions are:

W = 1 ± i

So one way to interpret that solution from a Buddhist perspective is that World is One with or without an imaginary i.

Uncertainty = What I don’t know / What I do

I think it would be better to use the mathematical proportionality (or dependency) symbol rather than equality, symbol. While uncertainty depends on those two factors, we don’t have to know everything to go beyond it. We just need to see and know enough to let go of doubts or to cross over the uncertainty in question.

Uncertainty α ( What I don’t know/What I do )



I was hoping to express and greater greater uncertainty. :wink:

I agree thatthe lessening of uncertainty is what we crave.

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:bellhop_bell: Ding! That was indeed what I was going for. :medal_sports:


This reminds me of the old (possibly Chinese) simile of the circle of knowledge, (also explained by that old Buddhist Mathematician Donald Rumsfeld).

The idea is that as we expand our circle of knowledge (increase the area of the circle), what we know we don’t know (the circumference of the circle) increases also.

So if Circumference = 2 π r, and Area = π r² then the relationship between Knowledge and Uncertainty will be something like (it’s been a long time since I did any maths):

Knowledge = π[Uncertainty/(2π)]²


I am reading a book called “denying science” by John Grant now, and it does critique people who simply misuse maths in a very loose manner.

“Another of Bunge’s targets is the US political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, who had a habit of using pretend mathematics. The mathematician Neal Koblitz exposed this phoniness in the essay “Mathematics as Propaganda: A Tale of Three Equations; or, The Emperors Have No Clothes” (1988);19 as a result, the US Academy of Sciences declined Huntington’s induction. The “mathematical equations” that created all the fuss came in Huntington’s book Political Order in changing Societies (1968) and read thus:

social mobilization/economic development = social frustration

social frustration/mobility opportunities = political participation

political participation/political institutionalization = political instability

Try putting a numerical value to any of those terms. And how do you divide social mobilization by economic development?

Huntington—whose views in their day were taken very seriously by governments—is merely one of the most prominent examples of political scientists and economists using the pretense of mathematics where plain English might reveal the paucity of reasoning.”

“Overall, the general pattern of the postmodernist assault on science seems to be to create a sort of random spaghetti of scientific terminology that makes no sense precisely because random, and then to attack it as nonsensical for one “sociological” reason or another. This would be merely bad if the attacks on the straw men themselves were coherent; alas, they aren’t, presumably because the “postmodernists” concerned have not the remotest understanding of the scientific concepts whose names they so merrily jumble; it’s rather like the way so many pseudoscientists and pseudomysticists—and their followers—believe it gives their particular crankery bonus street cred to add the adjective “quantum”: “Quantum Healing,” “Quantum Theology,” even “Quantum Buddhism.” The end result of the postmodernists’ efforts is a gross corruption of reasoning—not to mention a gross deception—that’s both a denial of science and a tool devised to promote a more universal denial of science. Also, as philosopher of science Meera Nanda points out, with its notion that science is merely a culture-specific social construct, postmodernism has been “a blessing for all religious zealots, in all major faiths, as they no longer feel compelled to revise their metaphysics in the light of progress in our understanding of nature in relevant fields.”

Excerpt From: John Grant. “Denying Science”. Apple Books.


“i” used as a symbol for square root of negative 1 can easily be used by another symbol. So too the self, using I to refer to self, can easily have another letter or word to represent it, as well as being language dependent. It’s a bit of fun to see such coincidences, but one has to be very aware that it’s merely coincidences, and not read anything into it.

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Except that, in this case, “I” (the author of that post) intended this reading. They are “reading into it” exactly what I (the author) intended.

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As I understand it, this thread is ‘water-cooler’ – a refreshing recreational thread, light-hearted but deep, and it is to be contributed to with sati-sampajañña. Its contents I found to be a helpful means for deeper reflection on Dhamma, without clinging to any symbols, mathematical or words.

So in this friendly spirit, I would like to share another reflection, now inspired by two posts above which used the circle formula:

(x-a)^2 + (y-b)^2 = r^2

Please consider this. (If you find flaws in it, please point them out):

1.Suppose we add another dimension and turn it into Samsara Sphere. Then:

(x-a)^2 + (y-b)^2 + (z-c)^2 = r^2

What happens when x->a and y->b and z->c ? or when r->0 ? (i.e. arrow → means approaches)

When x->a and y->b and z->c, then r->0 and the Sphere approaches extinction. But as it goes extinct it doesn’t end as zero or nothingness, rather it changes its state and name to a Point P.

2.By definition, a Point doesn’t have dimensions. But it is still located in 3-D space:


And it has a Mass (M). Doesn’t it?

But what happens as its mass decreases and approaches zero?

When its M-> 0 it too goes extinct, but it doesn’t end as zero or nothingness, rather it changes its state and name to a quantum of energy Q. And it loses its position in space. Where does it go?

3.This Q quantum of energy by definition has both particle and wave properties.

But what happens as its energy declines? Will it go extinct too, like the Circle, Sphere, a Point, or like a spark from fire?

Maybe in the EBT, DN 11, the Buddha gave the answer?

And the answer to that is:

Tatra veyyākaraṇaṁ bhavati:”


Dana :blush:

Sorry, even though it’s water cooler, I cannot stand misuse of Physics, having a bachelor’s in it.

E=mc^2 means that mass=energy. So it’s it that mass=0 means energy, E=0? Well, you get out of jail free for there’s the cases of zero rest mass particles, such as photons (light), which has energy without rest mass. We usually don’t use Q for energy in quantum, that’s more of a thermodynamics label for energy.

Everything has particle and wave duality according to quantum. Ok, every matter stuffs. Not so much space, time and information.

Does extinction physically means nibbana? No. There’s the formless realms, where there’s only mind only. So, unless the laws of the mind can be put into maths, I am assuming that all these maths refer to the physical world, and thus, nope, physical extinction is not nibbana. And anyway, the way to be physically extinct is to wait for death and have either formless attainments or attained to arahanthood, not to try to find a process to reduce volume, rest mass, energy, etc to zero.

Sorry for pouring cold water like this.

Physics and Buddhism is one of the fields which I am pretty invested in. One of the ways it can become disreputable is such loose misuse of scientific concepts without properly applying the concepts, ideas and teachings from both Physics and Buddhism. I don’t want such a field to become like Creationism, Intelligent Design, etc.

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I thought the letters we use to represent things was arbitrary? Didn’t you just scold Dana about this?

Einstein proved that spacetime is a single 4D thing, not two separate things. Also there are indeed quantum formulations of spacetime. You’re not even technically correct.

I’d be willing to bet that Buddhism will get a bad rap faster when ordained samaṇeras are mean to people on the internet than when someone on a forum mangles some physics in service of a joke. If you really care about Buddhism’s reputation, BE NICE and respect other people’s ideas. The reason people look down on e.g. creationism is not only their ignorance, but that they try to bully and force schools to teach things their way. It’s exactly this attitude (“I’m right and everyone else is wrong!”) that is what is off-putting about religious fundamentalists.

@UttamaSanti Preferably letting go of all three: <, >, and =

Thanks for feedback. Sorry that I become serious in a not serious discussion.

Now, onto serious discussion (of which we try to target the issue rather than person):

Thanks. Good point. It’s also good to follow convention when using maths, so as to enable people who are used to certain convention to follow the discussion.

Thanks, also good point. There’s still also a widespread usage even amongst physicists of using space and time separately. Spacetime is more commonly used by those who are in the field of general relativity. Whereas many other specialities find it more helpful to separate the two. This includes: quantum, cosmology (timeline of universe events vs distance to furthest galaxy are commonly used), some quantum gravity (wherein time becomes a calculation time step).

From scientist point of view, it’s more like they prefer to ignore facts and follow the Bible literally. And to deny science while at it. It’s also true that some militant atheist are actually more intolerant of having these religious science ideas introduced to school rather than the other way around, as one of the many tactics the religious people use is to expose students to alternatives and let them choose “the truth”.

Anyway, it’s a complicated terrain that many other religious had tried to dabble their hands in and get dismissed as non-sense by scientists.

Certainly for joke’s sake, even physicists jokes about their own stuffs, so no issue, as long as we are aware that it’s a joke.

I’d seen this one time: “Life is complex! - It has a real and even an imaginary part”.
Someone had modified this towards an advise about successful teamwork - just to respect the imaginary part of minds/social relations, so I took this nice one into my notes-collection… If applied to teamwork, for instance, one gets: “if you don’t accept the factor of imaginary, you cannot understand the root of negative results” … (even a better one)