MATH 191, Sections 1 and 3
Calculus I
Fall 2007
Formulas and Forms: Mathematics and Poetry
Doing math, to most people, is a scientific enterprise.
Made up of cold lemmas, theorems, and
propositions, mathematics is a means to an end, a collection of procedures that can be applied
to analyze the phenomena that arise in the natural world.
Thus most see math as a pragmatic
discipline, interesting only insofar as it is useful.
Many mathematicians, on the other hand, see math in a different light.
To them, math can be
beautiful:
in its forms and structures one finds patterns, symmetry, and harmony of all kinds.
From the obvious aesthetic beauty in lattices and fractals to the deep and subtle patterns in the
distribution of the prime numbers, there is beauty in mathematics.
As such, math has served as an inspiration to artists of all stripes.
For instance, many of the
Renaissance’s finest artists were among the period’s best mathematicians, and many of Bach’s
finest works are built upon simple mathematical formulas.
Less obviously, mathematics has informed writers as well. One need only look briefly at the work
of Katherine Stange, or the FrancoItalian collective Oulipo, or even more mainstream work of
Hermann Hesse, including
Magister Ludi
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 Fall '07
 BAHLS
 Math, Calculus, Science, Formulas, Prime number, Katherine Stange

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