**Mark once tried to describe the attraction of maths to me: “It’s quite simple. In a way it’s banal. Maths and beauty is the same thing, but they’re separated. When you find a formula, you can bring numbers and beauty into the same. When you don’t understand a formula, there’s disorder. Discord. Like static noise inside your head. But you can unite them. You have to unite them. When you understand how a formula works, you can see how things actually are, and how beautiful things really are.”**

Lucia Popp singing “Queen of the Night Aria” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

The thing is that I can see this, but it’s like watching through a smeared lens. I can’t make a better analogy than that. Once Mark tried to show me how music is maths, and it really is. Meter, rhyme, beat, sixteenth notes, tempo. It’s all about numbers. From the current charts to Lucia Popp’s ‘Queen of the Night”. It’s numbers united into a particular formula, and it is beautiful.

I wasn’t bad at maths, and I even enjoyed it in school, but I never had the interest. But from when I was a kid to now, Mum has tried to say this too, except with other words. She has tried to show me the beauty of the world through maths. She has tried to show me the matter, how it interacts with other matter, and together they form everything. And the way matter interacts with other things is a formula, and it is beautiful.

It was my fate not to become a science geek. I always fell into art and craft, writing and music. I have, however, never fallen for the prevailing ideal that maths is hard or difficult or bad – something that I find afflict many of the other artsy geeks. They try to say there’s this big conflict, when there isn’t one.

When they write a poem, when they write an aria, or when they strum out a song on the guitar in their bedrooms – they are using maths and formulas, but it is an intuitive understanding of these things that allow them to build a large separation between art and science. The separation is artificial, false.

Think of this when you string a bunch of sixteenth and eighth notes together into a series defined by execution over time. You are writing music to a formula you intuitively know, and when you succeed you unite numbers and the formula and create something of beauty.

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It was always a puzzle to me that I could read and perform music as a student but I was miserable at math. It was only when I was much older that I figured out I had a learning disability with math called dyscalculia.

I’m of a scientific bent, but I’ve always found maths very difficult and hard. That has been something of a disadvantage; if digital electronics hadn’t been invented I’d probably be sweeping the streets 🙂

My Dad was brilliant at math. He was also very musical, playing the violin most of his life. Sadly the only part of math I enjoyed was geometry. The irony is that I gave up math at year 12 level in favour of the piano. If I’d continued with my math I could have done biology at uni. That is something I regret because I still love biology. Ah well, now the biology comes out in my writing. I guess your passions will always find a way. 🙂

This idea was investigated in the book “Gödel, Escher, Back: An Eternal golden Braid”. It follows the same ideas through math, music, art, biology, computer science, etc. The book was popular back when I was in University, especially among programers and mathematicians, like me.

EEEk, typo. “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas Hofstadter.

I have to get this book for Mark. I loved this review of it on Goodreads:

“I could not with a clear conscience recommend this book to everyone, because I’m simply not that cruel. It would be like recommending large doses of LSD to everyone: some small minority will find the experience invaluably enlightening, but for most people it’s just going to melt their brain.

While you do not need to be a professional mathematician to appreciate this, you really have to like math a lot. You can’t just sort of like it. You can’t just differ with the masses in not hating mathematics. You can’t just find it mildly interesting rather than utterly abstruse and inaccessible. For example, you pretty much have to find the following joke to be hilarious:

There are 10 kinds of people in the world.

Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

If you are slapping your knee right now, then you might like this book. If, during the course of slapping said knee, all the pens fell out of your pocket protector and landed scattered across the piece of paper you were using to make Venn diagrams to help you decide what to have for breakfast, that, of course, is even better.

If you really like math, then this is going to be one of the best books you’ve ever read. Go get it now! But if you really like math, then you’ve almost certainly already read it. If you haven’t read it already, then you can’t possibly like math enough to enjoy it. Hmmmmm.

There’s a recursive paradox in there somewhere. Best not to think about it. It might melt your brain. “

I pulled the book off my shelf and after skimming it a little I’d have to agree with that review. It’s a little denser mathematically then I remembered it, probably because I was more used to being challenged with math back then then I am now.

Reblogged this on Tim Payne.