Fractals and Mathematics — Is It Art?

I’ve blogged about fractals before, and someone recently sent me this BBC video discussing fractal images as art and their creators as artists.  It’s nice and, perhaps, worth a few moments of your time, today.

The only thing I don’t like about the video is the title: “The art of mathematics”, and the speaker gets to the reason why just a bit.  While the images are beautiful, to connect the phrase “the art of mathematics” with these images — or even with only the fractal/dynamic system mathematics behind the images — is to do a disservice to mathematics.  For more, let me refer the reader to a book (the frequent target of my references): The Art of Mathematics by Jerry P. King (not the book by Bela Bollobás, which I have not read).

Here’s the video:

By the way, I mentioned aboved that I have blogged about fractals before.  Here are those entries, for those interested in a religio-mathematical diversion today…

6 thoughts on “Fractals and Mathematics — Is It Art?

  1. There are many that would say that calling fractals ‘Art’ is a disservice to Art as well. I personally don’t think in derisive terms such as ‘disservice’ however it is clear to me that fractals have very little to do with Art.


  2. Howdy, Kaz, and thanks for your comment.

    However, I would have to strenuously disagree with the statement that fractals have very little to do with art. I think the mathematician narrating the BBC video gets it right when he says that, perhaps, the fractal work could be considered as art or disqualified as art on the same basis that photography could be considered or disqualified. I found this to be a fantastic analogy that works rather well, and if photographic works can sometimes be considered art, then fractal images certainly can be as well.

    I apologize that I was probably a bit vague in my statement about why I believe calling the works depicted “the art of mathematics” is a disservice to mathematics. I feel so because there is true artistic quality to mathematical work, itself — not just to the images one can create with it, and not just with the subsections of mathematics that lend themselves to visual works. Jerry P. King argues this very well, and I have found his aesthetic theory as it relates to mathematics to be simple to understand yet profound in its reach concerning evaluating various mathematical statements, results, and proofs as truly beautiful or merely functional. (e.g., exp{1*pi} = -1? That’s functional. exp{i*pi} + 1 = 0? Now that’s beautiful…) 🙂

  3. Well, you wrote some interesting stuff on this subject. There’s a lot of material, so it will take me some time to walk through it. I do have two comments, though somewhat oblique.

    My brother is working on a new (electronic) microscope for the Howard Huges Medical Institute. Basically, you can fly around individucal cells like you were flying in an airplane. Something like that. Anyway, he said the same thing that you did. That the closer you get; the larger things expand.

    When it comes to math, I’ve often thought about sequence equations. You keep getting closer and closer to a certain point, but you never quite arrive. I’ve thought about that in terms of overcoming sin. (If my memory about sequence equations is incorrect, please correct me).

  4. Pingback: Fractal Art: Symmetry v2, Part 02 « zaytuun

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