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Tag archives: art

What makes an equation beautiful?

By James Dacey

Earlier this year I wrote about a psychology experiment that revealed that mathematicians appreciate beautiful equations in the same way that people experience great works of art. In the experiment, which conjures up a slightly comical scene, mathematicians were hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and asked to view a series of equations. When the subjects looked at equations they had previously rated as beautiful, it triggered activity in a part of the emotional brain associated with the experience of visual and musical beauty. The formula most commonly rated as beautiful in the study, in both the initial survey and the brain scan, was Euler’s equation, eiπ+ 1 = 0.

Inspired by this study, we have put together this infographic to dissect the Euler identity and try to understand why so many mathematicians are enamoured with this little equation. Let us know what you think of the infographic and what you think are the most beautiful equations. Either post a comment below this article, or let us know on Twitter using the hashtag #BeautifulEquations.

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Snip and tuck

Silverberg's presentation on origiami at the APS March meeting

A rapt audience watches Silverberg’s presentation on origami.

By Tushna Commissariat at the APS March Meeting in Denver

Origami – the traditional Japanese art of paper folding – has long intrigued mathematicians and physicists alike. In addition to understanding the mechanics of it, its principles have been applied to the folding of DNA and other nanoscale structural designing, as well as in the folding of rigid sheets using hinges. Indeed, the latter is used for a variety of purposes: from the simple folds of a paper bag with a flat bottom to the folding of airbags and telescopes, and even to simulating the folding of large solar panels for space satellites (known as the Miura fold, named after its inventor the Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura).

This morning, I went along to an APS session that looked at “extreme mechanics”, where researchers were talking about the origami and kirigami – a version of origami that involves folding and making small cuts to a single sheet of paper – of structural metamaterials.

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How to build brain-like circuits

Jim Gimzewski speaking about art and science at Institute of Physics Publishing

Jim Gimzewski speaking about art and science at IOP Publishing.

By Hamish Johnston

Yesterday Jim Gimzewski, who is professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA, paid a visit to IOP Publishing – which publishes Physics World. Gimzewski was here to give a lecture about his two professional passions: art and science. He spoke about his involvement in a travelling art installation that was inspired by butterfly metamorphosis and also about his work in synaptic electronics

Jim Gimzewski on synaptic electronics
Why scientists are trying to build artificial brains
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Particle art lights up Victorian ice well

By James Dacey

Photograph of art installation Covariance

Covariance includes 28,000 glass beads and 36,000 diamantés. (Courtesy: Richard Davies)

“The finished work is everything I had hoped for and more – it takes my breath away!”

That was the reaction of artist Lyndall Phelps upon seeing her physics-inspired installation in London, which will open to the public this Saturday. Entitled Covariance, the work was inspired by the SuperKamiokande neutrino observatory in Japan – reflecting the machinery of particle detectors and the way in which particle physicists visualize their data. The kaleidoscopic artwork is housed in a Victorian ice well beneath the London Canal Museum, in reference to the subterranean location of many large particle-physics experiments.

Phelps is an artist who often creates works inspired by science, where she looks in particular for the personal and emotive themes that can exist within academia. For this latest project, she worked in collaboration with Ben Still, a particle physicist from Queen Mary, University of London. The pair was commissioned to work on the project by the Institute of Physics (IOP) as the first in a programme of artists-in-residence called Superposition.

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Is creativity as important in science as it is in art?

By James Dacey

Science-inspired art

“Parity Series, Far Infrared”. (Courtesy: Mehri Imani, Central Saint Martins)

The worlds of art and science came together yesterday in central London in a celebration of creativity across disciplines. A symposium at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design was held to recognize the first group of students to complete the Art and Science MA course – the first course of its kind in the UK. Students taking this course are given the chance to explore the “creative relationships between art and science and how to communicate them”.

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LHC to hit the stage

gentlemenstea.png

By James Dacey

First there was the LHC rap then the media bonanza for the big September switch-on; also playing their part were the harbingers of doom – foretelling apocalypse from Geneva’s ‘black hole machine’.

Now CERN’s (in)famous experiment is about to get even more dramatic as it provides the fictional setting for a new theatre production.

The Gentlemen’s Tea Drinking Society is produced by Ransom Theatre Company who bill it as “a fast and funny exploration of science, friendship, sexuality and the end of everything as four men face the truth on one fateful night”.

The play was written by Richard Dormer who made a name in 2003 with his internationally-acclaimed portrayal of the talented-yet-troubled snooker legend Alex “Hurricane” Higgins. It also contains an original score by Belfast born DJ David Holmes who produced the music for Ocean’s Twelve and Out of Sight.

Dormer and Co haven’t revealed much about the plot other than it centres around four men in a room, one of whom is a physicist harbouring a very big secret – he’s found the Higgs boson.

This is not the first time physics has taken to the stage. Famous examples include Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (1993) — a look at the life of Byron which incorporated ideas from thermodynamics and chaos theory; and Michael Fryan’s Copenhagen (1998) — a play built around a 1941 conversation between Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg about the nature of the quantum world.

More recently American composer John Adams created an opera based on The Bomb and its creation at the Manhattan project. Dr Atomic premiered in 2005 and finally comes to London this February.

The Gentlemen’s Tea-Drinking Society launches on 4 February at Belfasts’s Old Museum before going on tour across Ireland until 10th March. Later in the year it will appear in Glasgow and London.

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