Friday, February 14, 2014

Beauty in Math

Mathematicians often talk about their craft in emotional terms.  We get excited by elegant, beautiful, clever constructions and the hidden insight in the logical relationships we uncover.  We can easily be stunned into awe when our intuition leads us astray, and something we did not expect pops out of our reasoning.  And when we see a formula or other type of mathematical construction that not only looks aesthetically pleasing, but contains meaning far beyond its simple symbolic patterns, we treat it as something that should be hanging in the Louvre....

Beauty has profound meaning in mathematics, at least to us.

Not sure you believe me?  Well, a paper just published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience may just change your mind.  Researchers use Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to map the brain activity of mathematicians as they viewed various mathematical formulae and constructions that they have rated on an ugly-beautiful scale.  That part of the brain that is activated when people see beautiful art, or hear beautiful music (yes, there is a specific place)?  Evidently, that place lights up when we view math that we see as beautiful.  At least to us, it is real. 

Give it a read (H/T to CG!!): 

Mathematical beauty activates same brain region as great art or music

BTW, the most beautiful formula of the study:  Why Euler's Identity, of course!  Can you see the beauty?

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