© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

There Is Beauty In Math, Yale Study Finds

Free-Photos from Pixabay

You don’t have to be a mathematician to see beauty in math – you don’t even have to be able to do anything beyond basic algebra. That’s according to new research from Yale University and the U.K.’s Bath University.

It started when a Yale professor compared a mathematical proof to a Schubert sonata in class. Sam Johnson is a researcher on the study. He says mathematicians have compared math to music for a long time.

“The ancient Greeks had a mystical cult around the idea that the entire universe is made of numbers. And one of the pieces of evidence for that was the mathematical patterns that they saw in music.”

Johnson and his colleagues wanted to see if this feeling is specific to mathematicians, or if anyone could find aesthetic beauty in mathematical proofs. They gave people a series of proofs they thought the average person could easily understand.

“And we also gave them several different pieces of classical music.”

They also showed them paintings. They found people had a tendency to associate certain proofs with certain works of art. Johnson says that brings us closer to answering some age-old questions.

“No one really knows if and to what extent people can have aesthetic experiences about ideas. Can people find an idea beautiful?”

Johnson says educators could use this knowledge to get more kids interested in math for its sheer beauty.