Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,

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Can Mathematics Make Us Emotional?

I believe that there is Math in Music but I find hard to understand that it elicits reaction similar to great art since Math is cold logic while Music is basically emotional

'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.

'The likes of Euler's identity or the Pythagorean identity are rarely mentioned in the same breath as the best of Mozart, Shakespeare and Van Gogh.

'The study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience gave 15 mathematicians 60 formula to rate...'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26151062

  • Mar 21 2014: While Euler et al may not be mentioned in the same breath as
    Mozart et al there is a concrete reason why. Almost no one who
    is not a mathematician can appreciate what mathematicians call
    "beautiful" but Mozart and Shakespeare and van Gogh can be
    appreciated by most people with a little education in the various
    disciplines.
    Try to imagine what the following words mean:
    homomorphic
    isomorphic
    finitely generated metabelian groups
    torsion free
    abelian
    See what I mean?
    Understanding what such terms mean and can do
    requires years of study and a natural intellectual
    inclination to do such work.
    It is, in a sense, like singing. One can either sing or
    one cannot.
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      Mar 21 2014: Yes I see what you mean Mary. Great illustration.
      My cousin who was an electrical engineering scholar was my roommate then. I can't forget how intense he was whenever he was studying---as if he was racing against something. In contrast, I was always very poor in math and only became really interested when I started studying Chess seriously when I was already 24 and out of college!
  • Feb 22 2014: I think this is a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

    If you have an understanding of math, then you can appreciate beauty in its ability to describe situations and events. The level of understanding requires that the mind to be conditioned to accept certain things as truth. When situations or events are captured by the features of mathematics, you typically have a very distilled description that conveys a purity of thought that resonates with practitioners of math, similar to how a symphony resonates with others. Most people can enjoy music at some level, perhaps the more you know about it, the greater the appreciation. Math is similar, but I think the starting point to gain appreciation is more uncommon and requires more time and energy than an appreciation of music.
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      Feb 22 2014: 'Math is similar, but I think the starting point to gain appreciation is more uncommon and requires more time and energy than an appreciation of music.'

      I think you can state that as fact Robert.
    • Mar 17 2014: Its right about the appreciation aspect, but perhaps there might be some more intrinsic conection since math is closed related to logic and understanding, and so does the art.
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    Mar 18 2014: Hi Poch, Your question, "Can Mathematics Make Us Emotional?"

    Yes. As proof walk into any calculus class and see the tears and listen to the crying.

    It still brings a tear to my eyes ....

    Bob.
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      Mar 18 2014: Ahhh...torture from stress can make anyone emotional. Yes sir :-)
  • Mar 16 2014: 1+1=3. How do you feel about that? 1+1=3 +/-1. Is that any better?
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      Mar 17 2014: Nice trick RCP. You succeeded in making me emotional. The question made me combative lol.
      Here's my philosophical version:
      Ona and one isn't 2. 1 and 1 is 1. What do you think I mean?
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    Mar 2 2014: Poch, Again I scramble to answer another thought provoking conversation.

    The answer is YES.

    There is a commonality in Art, Nature, Music, Architecture, and even the human body. It is called the Golden Ratio and has fascinated Western intellectuals of diverse interests for at least 2,400 years.

    Take a second and look up the Golden Ration and have a better understanding of the relationship.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

    Ya keep me young with all the lookin I gotta do ...

    Be well my friend. Bob.
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      Mar 2 2014: Great seeing you again Bob.
      How about the Philosopher's Stone? Do you think it's factual sir?
      Will check your link and be back later.
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        Mar 3 2014: Probaly more sought after than the Holy Grail. If it had once existed then there would be a glut of gold and silver and the secret would have been as well kept as the secrets of the builders / masons. However, there is no evidence that it ever existed. Such a secret would have been passed on or extored by Kings and rulers.

        How about you Poch ... Do you think it is factual or a myth? Explain.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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          Mar 3 2014: I'm not sure yet Bob but I surely wish it's factual. If it's a fiction story, it could have been based on facts as most fiction are.
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      Mar 2 2014: Although I can calculate simple percentages with just my head, I consider myself dumb with Math. As I see it, the Golden Ratio or Divine Proportion is a permanent formula for solutions. But Vera says:
      '...we can get only rough approximations and make endless mistakes. Rough approximations might work for awhile though, even help us to shoot a vessel into space.'
      Is one of us wrong?
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        Mar 3 2014: In what sense do you consider the Golden ratio, which is (1 + root5)/2 "a permanent fornula for solutions. Do you understand how it is derived?

        The ratio is of the long side to the short side of a rectangle that has the characteristic that when you chop of a square with a side length equal to its short side, the rectangle remaining is "similar" in the mathematical meaning to the rectangle with which you started.

        This condition will hold only if the ratio of long to short side is the Golden Ratio.

        Many things in nature have approximately the value of the Golden Ratio and few precisely that ratio..
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          Mar 3 2014: I'll let Robert reply on that since he understand math more than me. I'm really bad with Physics.
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    Mar 2 2014: Poch, there is absolutely no math or any thinking process ever possible without your personal Emotional Power, which is "born" in you in the first place.

    Without this emotional power you would not be able to see any number or symbol.
    You'd have No sensations of any kinds. Emotions are your primary life force.

    In the first place, math has been created by very excited human minds, and it might excite your emotions as well, while you're playing it.
    ..............
    By the way math - arithmetics were invented and used in Egypt but just simply in trading, Before it was introduced to ancient Greek philosophers, who developed it into some sophisticated abstract thinking, and other math tricks.

    The beauty of these mental creations is in the eye of the beholder - I was struck by how unreal and illogical these math fantasies were, while still in my early childhood. I was thinking it must be a game for children... (i did well playing this game, even when in college)


    A play - is probably the main feature that attracts wonderful dreamy and very emotional minds like Gödel's (who so loved "The Snow White and seven dwarfs" - it's their wonder world. Nurds?

    Because our minds are so CRUDE in PERCEIVING these realities we might see and trust, might seem to us possible to measure and get "exact" results, by using the very same "units" and "symbols". We believe that we may express the "nature" of "things" in equations ---- but actual reality is Not waiting for us to calculate it... we can get only rough approximations and make endless mistakes.

    Rough approximations might work for awhile though, even help us to shoot a vessel into space.
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      Mar 2 2014: Yes dear Vera. I agree that emotions are our primary life force. Which reminds me why learning how to tranquilize our emotions (Zen) when they become negative is utterly important.

      'In the first place, math has been created by very excited human minds, and it might excite your emotions as well, while you're playing it.'
      Just what happened with me.

      The roles played by Math in History makes me more emotional than math itself. Case in point is math in mettalurgy. Also the measurements of the Pyramids, the Philosopher's Stone, etc... Even just the theories or still unproven facts are enough to amaze you.

      '...we might trust that we can get "exact" results and use the very same "units" and "symbols"...'
      Yes. No permanent formula or cures.
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        Mar 2 2014: I like your imagination, Poch, it's your main driver in your life.
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          Mar 3 2014: Maybe because I'm an artist myself. Or didn't you know that :-) Thanks dear.
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      Mar 9 2014: Mathematicians are chronically lost and confused
      Is that how it's supposed to be?
      'Many people who are in this position, trying to learn mathematics on their own, have roughly two approaches. The first is to learn only the things that you need for the applications you’re interested in. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s akin to learning just enough vocabulary to fill out your tax forms. It’s often too specialized to give you a good understanding of how to apply the key ideas elsewhere. A common example is learning very specific linear algebra facts in order to understand a particular machine learning algorithm. It’s a commendable effort and undoubtedly useful, but in my experience this route makes you start from scratch in every new application...'
      http://j2kun.svbtle.com/mathematicians-are-chronically-lost-and-confused
  • Feb 24 2014: When you have been searching for a solution for an extended amount of time and it suddenly appears it is beauty in any language love, art, sensation, limits, discoveries, break trough's and yes even mathematics. When Peter Higgs theory of the Higgs Bosom was finally verified after forty plus years he was visibly ecstatic as he should be as were a whole hall of physics professionals and workers at CERN. When Einstein's theory was finally accepted and proven he could not contain his joy even thou it was just a silly equation that changed the world. The hardest ones are the ones you know are beautiful and yet you know you cannot tell anyone. That happened to me when I discovered the fastest sort in the world when I was 19 years old but could not let anyone know because the world was already changing to fast and I choose instead to not help it. My greatest gift to the planet was something I did not do, I kept it in my pocket for over thirty plus years where it remains today, even after being egged on by several professors at Stanford seventeen years ago.
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      Feb 24 2014: 'The hardest ones are the ones you know are beautiful and yet you know you cannot tell anyone.'
      You're talking about inventions? I know exactly what you mean Keith. I had a theory that might not be as great but the situation was the same.

      'My greatest gift to the planet was something I did not do, I kept it in my pocket for over thirty plus years where it remains today, even after being egged on by several professors at Stanford seventeen years ago.'
      Your greatest secret? I'm surprised the dirty spooks didn't harass you to reveal it sir. You know that spooks are always scared and interested in big secrets.
      • Feb 24 2014: The way to keep a secret is to tell no one which is what I did for a long, long time. When I finally did reveal it's existence the Professor's at Stanford jumped all over me and even threatened to sue me so I made fools of them and told them to kiss ole rosy and I have not heard from them since.
  • Feb 24 2014: Poch,

    The beauty lies in the logic, very similar to a great chess combination. Ask most mathematicians and they will tell you most proofs are never right the 1st time. It takes time to find the "beautiful" proof. For example, the Banach-Tarski paradox original proof was great but the Robinson-Robinson proof from 1963 is considered the most beautiful. By the way, the paradox is creating 2 spheres of the same size from 1 sphere of the same size.
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      Feb 24 2014: 'The beauty lies in the logic, very similar to a great chess combination.'
      And that is why I cited logic puzzles as one of those that shown me the beauty of math. To compose a great chess combination, a player must have brilliant tactics and a strategy done with math.
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    Feb 22 2014: You are calling mathematics "cold logic," but real mathematics is not "cold" in the sense of unable to inspire a sense of beauty or an appreciation of elegance.

    i don't think of equations as the beautiful part. Humans are attuned to finding beauty or satisfaction in patterns, and mathematics is often called the study of patterns. But I think the beauty of mathematics lies in the nature of its proofs and also the feeling of unraveling the puzzle.

    A good math teacher can convey the beauty of mathematics to the young via engagement with a variety of different rich problems.
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      Feb 22 2014: '...I think the beauty of mathematics lies in the nature of its proofs and also the feeling of unraveling the puzzle.'
      That reminded me that I only started appreciating math when I began studying Chess seriously---when I was already 25! Chess players are rated by a system called ELO rating, a math formula. Then I saw 'the beauty' of math in computer programming and logic puzzles which I'm avid of.

      I think that is proof of what you said:
      'A good math teacher can convey the beauty of mathematics to the young via engagement with a variety of different rich problems.'
      Only in my case, I was teacher to self.
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      Feb 24 2014: Since I think visual art is basically emotional, I now also think math should trigger the Stendhal Syndrome more than visual art should.
  • Mar 17 2014: Of course it can. We don't hear them mentioned with Mozart, Shakespeare and Van Gogh because it's an art much less shared than the others. Art much less accessible. The same goes for science in general. It's art too. It elicits emotions too. Only logical art, and less accessible (or less accessed) by most people.
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      Mar 18 2014: Good point Entropy. That Math is more accessible than all other disciplines.
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    Mar 9 2014: Hey!!
    I think yes!
    It happens with me many time. i love mathematics and many times when i solve something then it always make me emotional and there sre many numbers which can relate with your life as mathematics is really a huge and interesting.
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      Mar 10 2014: You're the most passionate here about math so far Sam.
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        Mar 16 2014: yeah you can say that i am passionate but i am telling you just what i experienced.
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          Mar 16 2014: And telling about one's experiences is always great illustrating Sam.
  • Mar 8 2014: Hi Poch

    "Fundamentally" Yes

    All things, all existence's,all thoughts, all subjects, have the same fundamental source of origin namely the Universe; the fundamental nature of which, is the unknown substance we call energy. Extending from this unknown and undetectable substance we call energy, come all of the physically existent forms of the matter of the universe; which by mathematical ratio (engineering) go into the geometric patterns/structures of larger forms of matter e.g. particles, atoms, molecules, geometric crystalline elements etc.

    However as the source of all natural physical matter is + N - = analogue waves of electromagnetic energy; and the fundamental metaphysical source that lies behind the physical transmission, of the electrical energy our thoughts; is the fundamental source of all mathematics, and geometry (logic and shapes of our thoughts); all of our analogue thought processes and emotions, stem from the mathematics of the analogue; but not the I0 (+-) of digital linear mathematics/virtual realities of corporations, and their similar but rather technologically based unemotional robots/clones.

    And hence their soulless, unemotional, avaricious, and non- considerate pursuit of so called progress and power over all others; regardless as to the detrimental costs to our future lives, relative to their relentless destruction of the "natural cycles";

    Of the "Living Flora and Fauna, of the Living Flora's and Fauna's Planet"; Not simply ours !) = and "our own" living environments; over which they and we the "Living and Emotional Masses"; have little say or control.

    In sum all emotions and all things originally stem from the mathematics/music, and the emotions/music, of the Universal Songs, and Never Ending Stories, of the universe and its life forms.

    And only one creature that walks the Earth can be said to be evil, mankind which is constantly accelerating its processes of genocide, and global destruction; and the end of the human story.
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    Mar 3 2014: An opinion on Why US Classroom Math Is Boring
    Blame Our 1K-Year-Old Curriculum
    '...In elementary and middle school and even into high school, we hide math's great masterpieces from students' view. The arithmetic, algebraic equations and geometric proofs we do teach are important, but they are to mathematics what whitewashing a fence is to Picasso — so reductive it's almost a lie...'
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-adv-frenkel-why-study-math-20140302,0,5177338.story#ixzz2uwdiG8AT
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      Mar 9 2014: I think this picture of today's mathematics classrooms may be outdated. He mentions symmetry groups, mathematics on the sphere, and clock math. A decade ago I remember symmetry groups being presented in an interesting, focused way in the standard middle school math series that was probably the most popular in the United States. I have taught that subject dozens of times to twelve and thirteen year olds. Clock math has been taught as part of widely used grade school series. I have taught some non-Euclidean topics as well, including to ten and eleven year olds, but that is less common in popular curriculum.

      One of the concerns people have sometimes expressed about the teaching of mathematics in the United States is that school curricula have been inclined to cover so many topics that students do not always gain a command of the ideas and procedures that are most important in life and work.

      For this reason many districts may have been passing up these topics in recent years in favor of a focus on the ideas that offer more leverage in application.

      I think proof is truly at the heart of mathematics, and I expect the math professor featured in your link would agree. This is why kids working with math in today's classrooms are expected always to articulate their reasoning for how they reached conclusions. The practice of being explicit about assumptions and then being able to defend every step in the final solution with reasoning are some of the great analytic gifts of mathematics that have application to fields well outside of mathematics. This aspect is central in contemporary math curricula.

      Another component of mathematical work is inductive work with simple cases to get an initial handle on larger, complex problems. This practice is often but not always part of modern curriculum but wasn't in classrooms in the mid-twentieth century.

      Building in these aspects of the real math process is part of what Bruner in '77 called representing a field with integrity.
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        Mar 9 2014: '...many districts may have been passing up these topics in recent years in favor of a focus on the ideas that offer more leverage in application.'
        So the question now is 'which topics that offer more leverage in application should be included?'.
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          Mar 9 2014: I thought what I wrote put forward some that are central, but skills in numeracy and algebraic thinking surely are as well, as the mathematician in your article also expresses. If you look at the Common Core standards in mathematics, they offer a more detail answer to that question.
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        Mar 9 2014: Ok sir. Thanks.
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    Mar 2 2014: Dear Poch,
    Nothing can "make" us emotional, and as emotional creatures, we can certainly express various emotions, with various situations, at various times.

    I suggest that when mathematicians were shown something in the test you describe, they, as individuals were judging something as "ugly" or "beautiful". Perhaps those who did not connect with the information found it to be "ugly", and those who discovered something new, and/or were familiar with the information perceived it as "beautiful".

    Although math is not one of my preferences, I was faced with it when managing government subsidized elderly and disabled housing. I was responsible for a several hundred thousand dollar annual budget, and required to submit monthly, quarterly, and annual budgets and financial reports.

    It felt somewhat daunting at first (I flunked math several times in school!)....can I do this? Once into it however....understanding the math and learning from the experience, the process felt joyful and beautiful!

    I was not really feeling pleased and joyful about the math, but rather, the idea that I understood it and could do it successfully......I am STILL joyful about the discovery and my ability to do something that I previously was not particularly fond of or good at, and perceive it to be BEAUTIFUL after many years:>)
  • Feb 24 2014: Anything can make us emotional--it's all a matter of how we are conditioned and how we condition ourselves to respond.
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      Feb 24 2014: You were sharp again Bryan. Your philosophy also made me wonder if math could even make sociopaths---persons without emotions---emotional. I also think math should trigger the Stendhal Syndrome more than visual art should.