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February 11, 2014
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Beauty in math may touch same brain area as art, music
Feb. 12, 2014
Courtesy of UCL
and World
Science staff
People who enjoy the beauty of mathematics activate the same part of their brain when they look at
an aesthetically pleasing formula as many do when enjoying
art or music, a study finds.
The formula that mathematicians in the study rated most beautiful? Leonhard Euler’s identity (e^{iπ}
= –1.) (See
here for more information on it).
There are many different sources of beauty—a beautiful face, a picturesque landscape, a great symphony. But there are other, highly intellectual sources of beauty. Mathematicians often describe mathematical formulae in emotive terms and compare it go great art.
In a new paper published in the research journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers used the brain scanning technique functional magnetic resonance imaging to image the brain activity of 15 mathematicians when they looked at formulae that they had previously rated as beautiful, neutral or ugly.
The results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain – namely the medial orbitofrontal cortex – as the experience of beauty from art or music.
“For Plato, the abstract quality of mathematics expressed the ultimate pinnacle of beauty,” said Semir Zeki, lead author of the paper from the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at University College London.
“To many of us mathematical formulae appear dry and inaccessible but to a mathematician an equation can embody the quintessence of beauty. The beauty of a formula may result from simplicity, symmetry, elegance or the expression of an immutable truth.”
The formulae most consistently rated as beautiful both before and during the scans were Euler’s identity, the Pythagorean identity and the CauchyRiemann equations. Euler’s identity links five fundamental mathematical constants with three basic arithmetic operations each occurring once. The equation’s beauty has been likened to that of the soliloquy in Hamlet.
Mathematicians judged Srinivasa Ramanujan’s infinite series and Riemann’s functional equation as the ugliest.
“Activity in the brain is strongly related to how intense people declare their experience of beauty to
be – even in this example where the source of beauty is extremely abstract. This answers a critical question in the study of aesthetics, namely whether aesthetic experiences can be quantified,” Zeki said.
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People who appreciate the beauty of mathematics activate the same part of their brain when they look at aesthetically pleasing formula as others do when appreciating art or music, a study finds.
The formula that mathematicians in the study rated most beautiful? Leonhard Euler’s identity (eiπ =1.) (See here for more information on it).
There are many different sources of beauty—a beautiful face, a picturesque landscape, a great symphony. But there are other, highly intellectual sources of beauty. Mathematicians often describe mathematical formulae in emotive terms and compare it go great art.
In a new paper published in the openaccess journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers used the brain scanning technique functional magnetic resonance imaging to image the brain activity of 15 mathematicians when they looked at formulae that they had previously rated as beautiful, neutral or ugly.
The results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain – namely the medial orbitofrontal cortex – as the experience of beauty derived from art or music.
“For Plato, the abstract quality of mathematics expressed the ultimate pinnacle of beauty,” said Semir Zeki, lead author of the paper from the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at University College London.
“To many of us mathematical formulae appear dry and inaccessible but to a mathematician an equation can embody the quintessence of beauty. The beauty of a formula may result from simplicity, symmetry, elegance or the expression of an immutable truth. “
The formulae most consistently rated as beautiful both before and during the scans were Euler’s identity, the Pythagorean identity and the CauchyRiemann equations. Euler’s identity links five fundamental mathematical constants with three basic arithmetic operations each occurring once. The equation’s beauty has been likened to that of the soliloquy in Hamlet.
Mathematicians judged Srinivasa Ramanujan’s infinite series and Riemann’s functional equation as the ugliest.
“Activity in the brain is strongly related to how intense people declare their experience of beauty to – even in this example where the source of beauty is extremely abstract. This answers a critical question in the study of aesthetics, namely whether aesthetic experiences can be quantified,” Zeki said.
