Tag Archives: New Humanist

The abstract beauty of maths

I was delighted to contribute an essay to the New Humanist, which discusses the concept of ‘abstract beauty’ and the way mathematicians can perceive certain formulae to be aesthetically pleasing.

“Euler’s identity, for example—e + 1 = 0, an equation that combines five of the most important numbers in mathematics—is often cited, both by individual academics and in wider polls, as the most beautiful equation of all time. Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin, for example, has likened it to “a Shakespearean sonnet that captures the very essence of love, or a painting that brings out the beauty of the human form that is far more than just skin deep.”

There’s a technical barrier to appreciating the beauty of maths, that does not exist to the same extent in art, or music. “I doubt you can appreciate it the way mathematicians do,” Ian Stewart, professor of mathematics at Warwick University, told me. “But by reading the right books and articles, a layperson might get a sense of what’s involved. It’s a bit like reading poetry in a language you don’t speak: someone has to translate it for you.”

Full text is not yet online—and the New Humanist is still on newsstands for another few weeks. But I’ll post the full article online after that.

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Cover story: who wants to live forever?

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I was delighted to contribute the cover story of the latest (summer) edition of the New Humanist magazine, an article about efforts to transcend death via cryonics, gene therapy and artificial intelligence. During my research I shadowed a training day run by Cryonics UK and interviewed several who have signed up to be ‘frozen’ after their death, in the hope of revival, plus the leader of a Mormon association who plans a mass-sign up of Mormons and Christians so that they might be reborn in accordance with scripture.

 

It can be found in full on the New Humanist website here, or after the fold.

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