Monday, April 24, 2006

The beauty is in the numbers.

If I were given an injection that gave me the choice between being a genius (as in I.Q) in the field of writing or the field of pure mathmatics, I might just choose mathmatics!

It's only because I barely know my times tables that it fascinates me so.

Mathmatics was a love/hate relationship in school. When I "got" it, I loved it. However, more often than not, I couldn't grasp the basic functions let alone complex ones.

I literally "see" words and language inside my head. I love knowing what words mean and where they come from. Some of my friends have been known to phone me at odd hours of the day and night for the "correct" spelling or meaning of a particular word. I love words! it's how I'm wired naturally and instinctively.

But numbers? The brain fogs, the eyes roll inside out and I cannot think at all! I have to physically transcribe them into some sort of external reference portal - either paper or calculator - to process them; and I process them slowly and laboriously. I get them wrong even with these time honoured methods! I thank God for the calculator of which we have many in this house.

But what I would give to be able to "get" complex dynamics, large numbers, complex numbers, quadratic polynomials and thereby create beautiful images such as this.

What synergy! What energy! What incredible complexity refined into simple beauty. What an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, marvellously coherent form! I just wish this computer were fast enough to be able to change the iterations for this construct quickly and make this image flex and change through its various permutations.

A changing Julia or Mandelbrot Set is at once mesmerising and alluring, eternally different and always the same. The shapes and patterns flex and mutate in a graceful spiralling waltz of colour and pattern and each time, one is surprised to see the basic pattern repeat over and over again into seeming effortless infinity. Order out of chaos. Pattern and shape out of incomprehensible disorder. Symmetry and asymmetry dancing together in perfect accord.

To be able to see life through the application of pure number theory would open up worlds I could hardly imagine within the limited confines of words. To be able to computate and iterate experience through mathmatical formulae would be, quite frankly, awesome!

I envy those who understand mathmatics. I envy them this ability to create form through number. I envy them the opportunity to explore the world through such a construct, through such logic, such cohesion of shape, colour, pattern and idea. There is a kind of esoteric quality about pure mathmatics that seems other-worldly and almost removed from the constraints of messy life. Sure! It's another language, another way of processing the world, of making it make sense; of constructing coherence. But the difference is that it is a language so confined to those who speak it, who can make sense of it that's it becomes a kind of alternative reality for the rest of us; too mysterious and too strange to comprehend. I suppose that is what makes it so intriguing.

I deal with life through english words as a way of filtering and ordering it to make sense to me. But to be able to go places, mathmatically, that words just can't go...well... that is a journey I, unfortunately, cannot travel and I'd really love to if that injection were available! Even if for a little while. Instead, I will be content to gaze upon the beautiful results of our mathmaticians labours.

And I'm grateful!


A number of alternative images of Julia and Mandelbrot Sets can be found Here

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