Ghastly Mathematics
    By Martin Gardiner | December 19th 2013 07:10 AM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    A good number of very high profile philosophers and mathematicians have drawn attention to what they see as the intrinsic beauty in mathematical solutions.

    For example :

    "It seems to me now that mathematics is capable of an artistic excellence as great as that of any music, perhaps greater; not because the pleasure it gives (although very pure) is comparable, either in intensity or in the number of people who feel it, to that of music, but because it gives in absolute perfection that combination, characteristic of great art, of godlike freedom, with the sense of inevitable destiny; because, in fact, it constructs an ideal world where everything is perfect but true."

    Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), Autobiography, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1967, v1, p158

    Not so often mentioned, however, is that where there is beauty there can also be ugliness – or worse. For instance, take as an example the paper : ‘A GHASTLY GENERALIZED N-MANIFOLD’- by professor Robert J. Daverman and Dr. John J. Walsh (published in the ILLINOIS JOURNAL OF MATHEMATICS, Volume 25, Number 4, Winter 1981)

    [Note: The full paper can be accessed by clicking  'Full-text: Open access PDF file' via the link above.]

    Less mathematically gifted readers may not find the ghastliness immediately apparent though, indeed the word ‘ghastly’ appears only in the title of the paper, and thus at the risk of irritating those who are familiar with 2-ghastly spaces in acyclic manifold cell-like decompositions, and who will no doubt find the inherent ghastliness to be self-evident, reprinted below is a concise explanation that Professor Daverman has kindly supplied.

    “It is ghastly because it contains no cuber of dimension 2, 3 …, or  n-1, where  N  is the dimension of the ghastly object.”


    Interesting, from the link provided above:
    "J.H.Poincare (1854-1912), (cited in H.E.Huntley, The Divine Proportion, Dover, 1970)
    The mathematician does not study pure mathematics because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it and he delights in it because it is beautiful.

    Which reflects the difference between experimentalists and engineers from the abstractionists and theoreticians.

    Damn, if mathematics were legally considered an "art" based in aesthetics rather than pragmatic tools for our use, well, just think about it. Imagine the descendants of the person who first figured out that 2 + 2 = 4 and the royalties their descendants would still be enjoying from the ownership of the copyrights for their intellectual "art."

    Sarcasm aside, I think that real beauty in mathematics occurs when seriously convoluted and complex mathematics can be reduced to extraordinarily simple equations, such as the case with Newton, Copernicus, Maxwell and, of course, Einstein. This type of "artful" beautification is sorely needed today.

    Remember that snake oil salesmanship is also an "art." (think anthropogenic global warming)