Monday, June 02, 2008

Mathematical Beauty and Tea

Firstly, a famous mathematician is known to have said:

"A mathematician is a device for turning tea into theorems."*

Secondly, most mathematicians would readily divide each other by zero* to prove that the following formula is "beautiful":
e^{\pi i }+1=0

As I have said on many occasions, that formula did not fill me with the "wow-factor" as it did for others. However maybe the following image will change my thinking somewhat:

Perhaps it is my camera which should be confiscated, whilst I'm "revising", as opposed to the computer? (Click the picture to make it bigger...) Nevertheless, the addition of tea to that equation has added to its appeal!

*Some people claim that this is meant to say coffee, but as you can read, tea and theorems is an alliteration so it cannot possibly be coffee!
*Well mathematicians don't really "kill" each other, or do they?


Anatoly said...

"Nevertheless, the addition of tea to that equation has added to its appeal!"

Merging food and math.. I really love the idea.
When I first saw this formula it certainly filled me with a "wow factor" as you called it. Unfortunately no "wow" lasts forever...

Beans said...

Hi Anatoly,

Although you love the idea, I would advise you to drink(/eat) the tea(/food) before it gets cold!

I first came across Euler's formula in college (A2 further maths if I recall correctly); and my teacher was telling me about its "wow-factor". I nodded my head politely, but didn't really think it to be that amazing. However I think it all depends on which contexts its shown in!

I don't think the coffee drinkers will like it in this context... *cue evil laugh*!

Anatoly said...

Well, I can write an equation on an ice-scream - this way I wouldn't need to worry about it getting cold. Besides it would be funny to call the result "math-scream".

The first time I saw Euler formula was on the internet, about a year before I went to university. It certainly managed to make an impression. (I am not sure if this was the first time - but even if I did see it before I didn't notice it).

So, you are trying to make people drink tea instead of coffee by writing equations on coffee :)? Thats a noble goal :) ...

Beans said...

Ha - that sounds great: Math-scream! Next time the ice-cream van comes I'll see if he has any... :D

Many people seem to love horror movies, so if you had a mathematical horror movie, would more people like maths then?

What kind of impression did it make though? I mean what did you think when you first saw Euler's formula?

I wrote that equation on tea! (Well it's actually a reflection, so my tea remained drinkable). And as noble goals go, the more tea drinkers the better. (Was my plan that obvious?)

Anatoly said...

Mathematical horror movie. Something like this: "A pi shaped monster says: Solve this integral or you will be cut into infinitesimal parts "evil laugh". "?
It will probably cause kids to have mathematical nightmares... Not good for public relations. :)
On the other hand, mathematicians (and math students) will love the idea.

When I saw the Euler formula my thoughts went like this: "Wow! It is amazing... It is so beautiful.. (Repeat 50 times)". I hope I don't sound too weird...

I don't drink coffee at all, so good luck with your plan to destroy it. (You plan wasn't obvious, but the way you changed the first quote defiantly made me suspicious).

Beans said...

Well it doesn't have to be as obvious as that! Mathematicians have a knack for being subtle, so I'm sure the creatives will be able to come up with some "scary promotional maths" movie.

Or perhaps they could make a cartoon like Ben 10 *shifty look* where the main character loves maths etc... (this is coming from someone who still watches cartoons by the way, but as kids I suppose nothing beats spider man!) I am sounding sad to say the least, but hey, anything beats revising metric spaces.

So back to the scary movie idea (no cartoon idea ever existed!) Hmmm, I have to do that placement in a secondary school next week and part of it is to "promote mathematics" etc. Perhaps I could ask the group I'm working with to create a maths horror movie? (Well the students who don't like maths might enjoy doing this; casting their maths teachers as some gruesome characters, being the highlight of course!)

Lol, you don't sound too weird (we're all mathematicians here--there's nothing to be afraid of!) But I will be annoying and ask "it's so beautiful why?"

You could join me in my plan to destroy it? I mean replace it with tea! (Don't want to scare any kids already).

Anatoly said...

A mathematical carton sounds like an excellent idea. This idea is already floating on the net - from time to time this theme is mentioned in different comics.
The problem with such a cartoon is that the math used in it should be simple yet interesting. Otherwise the general public will be unable to understand it.
Perhaps a cartoon about the "life of a math student" (with some horror element) would fit the above.

Using cartoons to promote math in school seems a good idea to me. It will be remembered better than a simple talk.

"It is so beautiful why?" I doubt that there is an answer to this. Beauty is an interesting thing - either we see it or we don't see it. I suppose there are theorems/equations/lemmas that are beautiful in your eyes - can you explain why? What is beautiful in Euler formula is how 4 of the most mysterious numbers form such a simple and elegant equation. I try to see beauty in the world around me - I even have a photoblog on StumbleUpon in which I try to collect photos that speak about the beauty of Nature.

I don't mind joining you in your plans to replace coffee with tea :), but how do you plan to achieve it?

Beans said...

Yes, I was thinking something like "life of a maths student" too. The students will then (hopefully) be able to relate to such things.

I'm expected to give a talk on higher education I think, but haven't been told about a maths talk yet! (It's hard work--thinking of something interesting and accessible to secondary school kids). I think I'd prefer something like a cartoon do, rather than a talk.

Well I can explain why the Pancake function and erm... the sandwich rule are in a world of their own!! :D

I asked because I wondered whether the applications of a formula/theorem etc made it beautiful. I mean "the mathematicians" who live in a more mathematical world than I do, might see the formula differently because of certain connections etc. (Most people say what you did though, about the four mysterious numbers forming such equation).

About the plans... I'm working on it! (But I won't say no to any ideas or suggestions. ;) )