If anybody could imagine an advanced civilization with advanced knowledge of the universe(s) but without a mathematical language, how would they use their knowledge? How could it be possible to develop advanced physical concepts without mathematics?

If nobody here could imagine this, than here is another question:

Is there any language more general than math, math being perhaps a sub-set of it?

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    $\begingroup$ Would you like me to migrate this to Worldbuilding? It is (in my opinion) off-topic on Physics. $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2016 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ As an aside Brin's Uplift Universe posits a galaxy-wide, pan-specific civilization that doesn't use calculus and related advanced maths because everything is done on computers in discrete approximations of arbitrary quality. $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2016 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ What are your ideas on this topic? $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2016 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee On Worldbuilding, What-If questions aren't received too well (1, 2), though we don't have a fully fleshed out policy against them. I'd be against such a migration unless Andreas makes it clear that this is the basis for an actual world, and that he's put some thought into the question - kind of like showing effort on a homework-style question. However, I'm also voting to close this question as off-topic on Phyics. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 25, 2016 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about physics. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Jun 25, 2016 at 21:36

2 Answers 2


language more general than math

Sure, some of us call it English.

I can teach and understand many lessons from physics without diving into the math. What's hard to do is discover or prove physics without math.

"A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion."

I can throw tons of math at that but the idea can be expressed without math.

Math can be used to make exacting predictions based on what physics teaches us but before that the best thing physics does for us is disavow us of misconceptions. Math isn't always needed for that.


There were two achievements of early humans and early civilization that led to us being able to state and understand the environment we lived in. One was writing, and one was math. Math started with counting, then adding, i.e. counting and arithmetic. Counting was invented very very early in the homo family by many different groups. Then arithmetic and math evolved because we all needed to exchange. If no math no trade, no exchange, and everybody has to do everything themselves. Not groups cooperating. We would not be human.

So probably doing anything without math would require each person to be self sufficient in everything. They'd understand everything without ever having to measure, it would be intuitive. But it would not be a language. And it would not be a way that would provide a group of people to agree on anything

A different life form, or a failed state.

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    $\begingroup$ Not a bad way to look at it. Not being able to do calculus doesn't stop people from being able to catch a ball. $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2016 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ No, but how would they agree on where and when, and who pays for the ball? $\endgroup$
    – Bob Bee
    Jun 25, 2016 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @CandiedOrange. Nor who pays for the ball and who owes the other how much. $\endgroup$
    – Bob Bee
    Jun 26, 2016 at 1:58
  • $\begingroup$ @CandiedOrange. I posted a question in English.stack.exchange, much easier than your question. Didn't know how to request your answer. As for math, it is a specialized language and set of symbols to make dealing with numbers and such simpler than with languages. There's been thousands of languages in history, only 3 or 4 arithmetical/mathematical languages. Harder to devise and have it work logically. Languages can be more fuzzy, something can mean different things etc. I've tried teaching w/o math, students get only a very very fuzzy idea, and can not reason at anything beyond simple things $\endgroup$
    – Bob Bee
    Jun 26, 2016 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ My question? Yes math deeply enriches physics. Some concepts make little sense without calculus. But that doesn't mean math is required to understand physics. Math is a tool we use to teach it. We don't have to. I could teach you about acceleration by taking you to the gym and throwing dodgeballs at you. I just wouldn't be as good at it because I was taught about physics using math. Teaching advanced physics without math isn't something we've tried hard enough to do to justify deciding it can't be done. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2016 at 7:45

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