Imagine Math. Between culture and mathematics

The many diverse texts that make up this book, link mathematics to history, different kinds of art (music, literature, architecture, film,...), science, medicine, economics etc. Let me illustrate this with a number of examples. A first chapter is a tribute to Benoît Mandelbrot. The next is about the restoration of the Teatro Le Fenice in Venice (destroyed by fire in 1996 - what's in a name). This brings us to an homage to Andrea Pozzo, a Baroque artist famous for his use of geometry and perspective in his frescos. Near the end of the book there is another homage to Lucia Pacioli who was also a pioneer in the use of perspective. There are several contributions devoted to women in mathematics. Hypatia lived in Alexandria in the 4th century and was the first known woman to contribute to mathematics, but brutally murdered for some obscure reasons. There have been many other women in the course of history that contributed to the progress of mathematics: Emily du Châtelet, Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Sophie Germaine, Mary Fairfax Sommerville, Sonya Kovalevsky, and Emmy Noether are all briefly placed in the spotlight. The part on mathematics and art considers different aspects like the use of geometrical curves and surfaces in architecture or the role of mathematics in art throughout the past and how these mathematical rules also appear in nature. Also literature can be analysed using mathematical structures and statistical analysis, but conversely, a set of generating rules may also construct an artificial language. An analysis is given of the `inescapable labyrinth' that Jorge Luis Borges created with mathematical precision in his story `The library of Babel'. Under the part "applications" we find essays about Lorentz knots, the statistics of words and leading numbers, a numerologic analysis of the Seal of the US (the number 13 of the original 13 states is omnipresent), and aperiodic tilings (the birth of quasi-crystals). A contribution about a numerical model used for connecting artificial parts to the aorta falls under medical application. Other links are found between differential equations and origami. A study if the number system of Mesopotamia is of historical nature. There is not only a stage play about Hypatia, but there are also films about mathematics (like the Moebius strip by Edouard Blondeau), but it is also interesting to see how in the course of history the casting of characters playing the role of a mathematician in a movie has evolved. A final chapter is about the graphical representation of hidden rules that are used in music: visual art produced from music.

The book is about mathematics, but the formulas are only sporadically used. Theorems and proofs are fully absent. The texts are often written by non-mathematicians. Hence it is easily accessible for anyone having a general interested in mathematics and the interaction with many other aspects of science, society, and knowledge which are not the obvious engineering applications. The nice thing about it is that the interaction often goes both ways.

A. Bultheel
KU Leuven
Book details

This book is similar to the volumes Mathematics and Culture also published by Springer and edited by M. Emmer. It illustrates the diversity in applications and interaction that mathematics has in our current society, in particular when it does not concern science, technology and engineering.

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64,15 € (net)