Mathematics and Culture III

The Italian versions of this series appeared on a regular basis since 2000 under the title Matematica e Cultura. In fact the project was started after a conference in Venice in 1997. In the English version, 6 volumes are now published. The previous one was Mathematics and Culture VI that was published in 2009. The current volume III was still missing in an English translation. The original Italian book published in 2003 contained the proceedings of the conference, which was held in Venice in 2002, just like the first one in 1997.

As with all the other volumes in the series, this is a collection of papers that highlight the relation between mathematics and culture in the broadest sense. That can go both ways. For example a description of the mathematical tools to digitise music or pictures, or to analyse paintings, or apply group theory to describe mosaic patterns. In these articles the piece of art is created first and mathematics is applied to it. But it can also go the other way: sculptors or painters use mathematical patterns, deliberately or not, to create a piece of art, or an artist can use a computer as a tool and write a program that uses fractal patterns to compose music. The spectrum covered is however much broader than music, sculptures, or paintings. The articles also deal with math education and visualisation, explanation of paradoxes (optical or mental), representation of the 4th dimension, cinema, stage plays, cartoons and comic strips. Such diversity is recurrent in all the volumes of the series. In the present volume, there are two special chapters: one containing several papers related to Venice (where the M&C 2002 conference took place) and one with articles related to Chinese mathematics (since the International Congress of Mathematics in 2002 took place in Beijing). A novelty for this volume III is an audio CD that is included with three short pieces of guitar music to illustrate the paper by Claudio Ambrosini on Escher-like perspectives and music composition.

The conferences on Matematica e Cultura organized on a regular basis and the publication of the book series in English is in my opinion a very good initiative. This is not a collection of deep mathematical results that will advance science immediately, but it is an eye-opener to many who might experience mathematics as an invention to terrorise children at school. Mathematics is everywhere. It is not only in our highly technical, computerised and digitised society, but as this book series illustrates, it is also deeply embedded in the soft sector like arts and culture, where it is least expected, and it is of all ages and of all cultures. It is an excellent tool to raise public awareness of mathematics. It can be easily used by teachers or lecturers as a Trojan horse to conquer the fortress of the less mathematically inclined.

A. Bultheel
KU Leuven
Book details

This is the English translation of volume III in the Mathematics and Culture series. The originally Italian version was published in 2003 as proceedings of a conference in 2002 in Venice. It contains texts connecting mathematics and art and culture in general, including architecture, stage plays and movies, music, comic strips, and sculpture. There are also essays about mathematics in connection with Venice (where the conference took place), and a set of papers on mathematics in connection with China (the ICM took place in Beijing in 2002).

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