“Mathematics and Beauty are strongly linked.” Discuss.

Must ‘beauty’ be defined by Mathematics?

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“How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought independent of experience, is so admirably adapted to the objects of reality?” – Albert Einstein

 

Beauty in mathematics is a concept that has been discussed for many years now. But, in order to understand the extent of mathematical beauty and how strongly linked they are, we need to understand what ‘beauty’ in itself is first.

 

‘Beauty’ is a tricky concept, one that is very not objective and difficult to define, especially its applicability within maths. Beauty is sometimes defined as the ‘quality of being pleasing to look at’, and most commonly we use the term beauty to describe visual objects such as people or works of art. Mathematicians find a certain level of aesthetic in the abstract nature of mathematics, and in the link this finds with nature. They also find beauty in the simplicity and effectiveness of mathematics. For example, during a recent study conducted to vote for the most ‘beautiful equation’, Euler’s formula turned out the winner as it ‘is simple to look at and yet incredibly profound’, showing that to a mathematician simplicity also plays a part in what is deemed ‘beautiful’ in mathematical equations.

 

Mathematics has shown to have its implications in nature. This can be seen, for example, in sunflowers, where it was found that the seed spirals in the flower follow a type of numerical symmetry known as the Fibonacci Sequence, which adds to its beautiful appeal. The concept of symmetry is one that most people find ‘beautiful’ as well, research even suggesting that a human’s bilateral symmetry is of great importance when determining physical attraction, as it is closely linked to the Golden Ratio. Fractal curves, such as ‘Koch Snowflake’ are also examples of how mathematics present in nature can be perceived as beautiful, showing how mathematics can play a big part in something or someone being deemed as beautiful.

 

Some visualisations of mathematical formulas such as the ones seen above are undoubtedly beautiful, but is mathematics by itselfbeautiful? Math constitutes of many equations and theorems that are the basis of most mathematical norms we follow, but these equations may not necessarily be considered as ‘beautiful’ by a non-mathematically oriented person, even if their visual representation might be. Looking at a snowflake that is made through fractals may be beautiful for someone, but if we show the mathematical equation behind it to the person, it might not create the same response. This shows that the visual representation of math may be linked strongly to beauty, but the fundamental algebraic models of mathematics may not be. The effects of mathematics in our natural world may be deemed as beautiful, but the question of whether pure mathematics in itself is beautiful is one that can still be debated over. Moreover, beauty is a very subjective concept, as determining whether something is beautiful or not is dependent on the individual person’s sense perception. As the timeless saying goes, ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’. Something that may not be mathematically beautiful in one person’s eyes can still be beautiful in the eyes of another, thus making trying to a find a solid link between beauty and math harder.

 

Overall, we can see that although beauty is there inmathematics, through both an equation being considered beautiful due to its function and simplicity, and mathematical representations in nature through shapes and patterns, beauty in itself need not be defined by mathematics as it is a subjective concept that depends on the beholder, and something can be considered beautiful without any mathematical link.

 

Bibliography

 

“BEAUTY: Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed November 24, 2019. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/beauty.

 

“Euler’s Identity: ‘The Most Beautiful Equation’.” LiveScience. Purch. Accessed November 24, 2019. https://www.livescience.com/51399-eulers-identity.html.

 

Roberts, Siobhan. “The Beauty of Mathematics: It Can Never Lie to You.” Wired. Conde Nast, June 3, 2017. Accessed November 24, 2019 https://www.wired.com/2017/03/beauty-mathematics-can-never-lie/.

 

Raj. “15 Beautiful Examples of Mathematics in Nature.” Planet Dolan, April 28, 2015. https://www.planetdolan.com/15-beautiful-examples-of-mathematics-in-nature/3/.