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[ontolog-forum] Beauty in mathematics -- detected in brain scans

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2014 12:08:08 -0500
Message-id: <53039378.5010404@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Beauty is one of the most "subjective" experiences, but evidence
from fMRI scans has a high correlation with subjective reports
-- even in a subject as abstract and "objective" as mathematics.    (01)

 From BBC science news:
> Mathematicians were shown "ugly" and "beautiful" equations while
> in a brain scanner at University College London. The same emotional
> brain centres used to appreciate art were being activated by
> "beautiful" maths.  The researchers suggest there may be a
> neurobiological basis to beauty...    (02)

Excerpts below from the original publication and the BBC summary.    (03)

_____________________________________________________________________    (04)

http://www.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00068/abstract    (05)

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13 February 2014    (06)

The experience of mathematical beauty and its neural correlates
by Semir Zeki, John Paul Romaya, Dionigi M. T. Benincasa, and
Michael F. Atiyah    (07)

Many have written of the experience of mathematical beauty as being 
comparable to that derived from the greatest art. This makes it 
interesting to learn whether the experience of beauty derived from such 
a highly intellectual and abstract source as mathematics correlates with 
activity in the same part of the emotional brain as that derived from 
more sensory, perceptually based, sources. To determine this, we used 
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the activity in 
the brains of 15 mathematicians when they viewed mathematical formulae 
which they had individually rated as beautiful, indifferent or ugly. 
Results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates 
parametrically with activity in the same part of the emotional brain, 
namely field A1 of the medial orbito-frontal cortex (mOFC), as the 
experience of beauty derived from other sources.
_______________________________________________________________________    (08)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26151062    (09)

One of the researchers, Prof Semir Zeki, told the BBC: "A large number 
of areas of the brain are involved when viewing equations, but when one 
looks at a formula rated as beautiful it activates the emotional brain - 
the medial orbito-frontal cortex - like looking at a great painting or 
listening to a piece of music."    (010)

The more beautiful they rated the formula, the greater the surge in 
activity detected during the fMRI (functional magnetic resonance 
imaging) scans.    (011)

"Neuroscience can't tell you what beauty is, but if you find it 
beautiful the medial orbito-frontal cortex is likely to be involved, you 
can find beauty in anything," he said...    (012)

To the untrained eye there may not be much beauty in Euler's identity, 
but in the study it was the formula of choice for mathematicians.  It is 
a personal favourite of Prof David Percy from the Institute of 
Mathematics and its Applications.    (013)

    e^iπ + 1 = 0    (014)

He told the BBC: "It is a real classic and you can do no better than 
that.  It is simple to look at and yet incredibly profound, it comprises 
the five most important mathematical constants - zero (additive 
identity), one (multiplicative identity), e and pi (the two most common 
transcendental numbers) and i (fundamental imaginary number).    (015)

"It also comprises the three most basic arithmetic operations - 
addition, multiplication and exponentiation.    (016)

"Given that e, pi and i are incredibly complicated and seemingly 
unrelated numbers, it is amazing that they are linked by this concise 
formula.    (017)

At first you don't realise the implications -- it's a gradual impact, 
perhaps as you would with a piece of music and then suddenly it becomes 
amazing as you realise its full potential."    (018)

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