Great mathematicians would also make great artists

Mathematics: Mathematical formulas stimulate the sense of art

Mathematical formulas can be complicated, useful or ingenious - but beautiful? For the participants in a study at University College London, it was: The 15 mathematicians found many of the equations presented to them to be highly aesthetic. The sight of them activated an area in their brain that is known to respond to artistically or musically imagined stimuli.

Mathematicians rated the beauty of formulas

A research team led by Semir Zeki presented the math cracks with 60 familiar equations and had them evaluate the beauty of the formulas. Two weeks later, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record the brain activity of the participants while they looked at the formulas again.

Formulas and art activate the same area of ​​the brain

Equations that were particularly well received now triggered greater activation in the medial orbitofrontal cortex than less appealing formulas. In previous experiments, this brain region was already agitated more strongly in the face of beautiful art or music.

The equations were of different lengths and clear. Apparently mathematicians found the equations particularly beautiful, which represent a complicated relationship in an astonishingly simple form, such as Euler's formula (see illustration). Less economical formulas like the equation of Srinivasa Ramanujan, however, performed worse.