The artistic beauty of mathematics

The artistic beauty of mathematics

The charm that mathematics exerts on the human brain is described by a British scientific study from the University College London. According to this study people who find mathematical equations beautiful and attractive, they also seem to compare them with authentic works of art. The main theory extracted from the study supports that there is a single neurobiological basis for the beauty and aesthetic perception of the beautifulness.

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The research team, led by Professor Semir Zeki from the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at University College London, used the method of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to illustrate the brain activity of 15 volunteer mathematicians while they were observing 60 mathematical equations which were previously described as beautiful, indifferent or ugly.

The process and the results of the study showed that the experience of the beauty in mathematics is recorded in the same emotional area of the brain (in the medial orbito-frontal cortex), where the beauty in music and arts is captured and processed.

The lead author of the paper, Professor Semir Zeki, stated that: “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. For Plato, the abstract quality of mathematics expressed the ultimate pinnacle of beauty.

The experiment also showed that equations that are correlated with intense aesthetic pleasure are the Euler’s identity, the Pythagorean theorem, and the Kosi-Riemann equations.

The whole research is published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.