Hi. I’m Jeff Morton. I am a mathematician with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside.  Until recently I was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Western Ontario.  As of September 2010, I am a postdoctoral researcher at CAMGSD, a research centre at IST in Lisbon, Portugal.  You can read more about my research and background at my website.

I’ve been interested in mathematics, physics, and philosophy – in some form or another – for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’m curious about nearly everything humans have discovered about and contributed to the world we live in: history, astronomy, biology, religion, politics, literature… I also read a lot, write some science fiction, have made music, and so on.

This blog is about me as a mathematician – a researcher and teacher. I became a mathematician because, out of all the things I’ve learned about, mathematics comes closest to being a really universal body of facts that enter into everything we learn and discover. Mathematics can be a bridge between the empirical sciences – especially physics, in some ways my favourite – and the ideal world of ideas and philosophy.

5 Responses to “About Me”

  1. saij Says:

    Congrats on the blog. I’m in my last year as an undergrad in Mathematics at Portland State University. And I plan to continue there as a grad student.

    While I’m not (by any means) the greatest mind on the planet, what mind I do have seems to be quite in line with yours on the interesting connections between Mathematics and Philosophy.

    Mathematics is possibly the ultimate form of Philosophy.

    For me, it’s the connection between mathematical order and political and moral philosophy. We as a species have always been hell-bent on imposing the kind of order we attribute to Math on society at large. I am not making a value judgment there. But, the way our minds work is interesting. We’re so chaotic, an overgrown chimp out of it’s league, and yet, math is something that came from us. Amazing.

    Welcome to the Blogo-hyper-sphere. But, beware … blogging is highly addictive! :)

    PS. I have heard that Ontario is a great.

  2. Charlie Mitton Says:

    I am intersted in how quantum theory relates to everyday reality through synchronicity and have written a book which to some extent follows from ideas by Jung and Pauli, I learnt from your site to how Lucien Hardy uses the word ‘coincidence’.There are words like topos and ‘ontic states’ which converge with literary criticism. I could say more but need some kind of feedback.


    1. Charlie: One has to be careful with words like this. If “topos” and other words are used in both mathematics and literary criticism, we can attribute it to etymology – it’s a Greek word for “place” after all – but in both cases it has some specific meaning derived from that. It would be a bit of a stretch to suppose it means the same thing.

      Likewise, “coincidence” refers to two things coinciding – i.e. both happening at the same time/place. “Synchronicity” usually has the implication of “meaningful coincidence”, which is not something that quantum theory (or most any materialist view of the world) has anything much to say about. Jung and Pauli played with those ideas at a time when there was still a lot of confusion and disagreement about what concepts like “measurement” or “observation” mean in quantum mechanics, and what “state reduction” is. It was quite common to suppose they necessarily have something to do with human consciousness.

      There’s still a lot of confusion about exactly how to interpret them, but I think the idea that they’re related to consciousness is usually regarded as too much anthropomorphizing. If you believe Penrose, for example, state reduction (the choosing of one particular state out of a superposition) happens when the states being superimposed differ by enough that the distributions of mass mean they live on different spacetime geometries. That’s just a question of size – differences involving masses bigger than about the Planck scale (ten micrograms or so) would automatically lead to state reduction whether or not consciousness is involved.

      So: if synchronicity is a significant concept, modern quantum theory doesn’t have much of anything to say about it that I can see. Cognitive science or something else that deals with the ability to perceive meaning might possibly, I don’t know.

  3. Charlie Mitton Says:

    I am aware that wordslike ‘topos’, ‘coincidence’ and for that matter ‘information’ are used in a non-anthropic manner. I have however been working from my own ‘microcosmos’ where such words I believe are tantamount to virtual particles which flash in and out of the system. I am interested in assembling a whole array ofsuch particles so that they produce an interference pattern in consciousness which demonstrates their ontological reality. In so doing I bring to the fore the probabilistic aspect of quantum theory.In my system the particle/denotative state breaks down. This can only be done by a special relationship with coincidence.
    It means that eventually the spooky aspects and paradoxes of state reduction become paramount. Things like decoherence are a fact of conciousness which leads to the conclusion that the mind is in fact quantum gravity computing and the Planck length loses its relevance. This can only be achieved by the special relationship which I relate to Hardy’s non-fixed causal structure and probability.

  4. julielavoie Says:

    Hey! Googled you on a lark…wondering “whatever happened to…” glad to see you’re still alive and kicking! :-)

    Hope we find ourselves in the same part of the world sometime and can meet for coffee!

    -J

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