View Full Version : Mathmaticians needed

domtyler

07-12-2005, 04:30 PM

Hi,

Can someone cast a mathematical eye over this idea and tell me if it's possible or interesting or crap.

A series of portraits of mathematicians whereby each subject nominates the next on the basis of crossovers between their work or at least connections (mirroring the cross-fertilization of ideas in the maths community). Also the first subject begins an open-ended equation to which the second adds or develops and passes to the next and so-on. The final product is not only a series of portraits but an insight into the way complex maths works i.e. many minds working on big problems with different insights and methods.

I imagine each portrait uses a chalkboard/white-board as a backdrop on which is written the equation as is evolves.

Any thoughts?

Dom

tryptych

08-12-2005, 03:44 AM

Hmm, well I'm not a mathematician, but I know a bit about it.

Also the first subject begins an open-ended equation to which the second adds or develops and passes to the next and so-on. The final product is not only a series of portraits but an insight into the way complex maths works i.e. many minds working on big problems with different insights and methods.

I'm struggling to visualise this. What do you envisage by an "open-ended equation"? I find it difficult to see how an equation could be develop and passed on, rather than just solved. Or proved. Equations arn't really like paintings or pieces of music. Although if a mathematician could step in right now and explain that I'm wrong and why I'd be very interested..

I'm curious - do you have a maths background?

don_quixote

08-12-2005, 10:34 PM

not sure you mean equation, rather a theory and working towards a final proof... would be very interesting to show drawing upon ideas of the past and bringing them together - like a book about a theorem, but ur, not a book.

evolution of equations doesn't really happen to my knowledge... more that theyre 'invented' through practice and then the real effort is in showing theyre true

domtyler

09-12-2005, 12:53 AM

Seems I'm off base with the equation idea. Thanks for the comments. I still want to have some kind of mathematical underpinning for the series, something to represent the way mathematics works, building proofs on proofs, chipping away at difficult problems from lots of different directions until it breaks through to the next problem. Also I'd like to convey something of the beauty of mathematics, the aesthetic of an elegant proof, the fact that it's not some dry, sterile study but something that it's possible to be passionate about. That's a lot to try to acheive with portraits but I think that some kind of mathematical method might be contrived to direct the series, somehow allowing the work of the subject to determine key elements of the shoot.

Perhaps...

domtyler

09-12-2005, 01:00 AM

I'm curious - do you have a maths background?

No, I'm hopelessly ignorant about the practice of proper maths. Occasionally I read something mathematical in the New Scientist or online which I think I understand and then seconds later it's wriggled free of my mind's feeble grip and gone.

I think I see mathematicians as a slightly different species or race, with a language and mindset all of their own, and that's why I want to photograph them.

mind_philip

09-12-2005, 12:09 PM

The Erdos number project might interest you

http://www.oakland.edu/enp/

It's an attempt to plot the relationships between mathematicians who worked with the prolific collaborator Paul Erdos.

Rambler

09-12-2005, 01:14 PM

something to represent the way mathematics works, building proofs on proofs, chipping away at difficult problems from lots of different directions until it breaks through to the next problem.

You should probably read Music of the Primes by Marcus du Sautoy (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1841155802/ref=pd_sr_ec_ir_b/203-8827199-6208758) - it does exactly this, telling the history of the search for a rigorous method for determining the prime number series. On the way it involves most of the great pure mathematicians, and each is given a rounded portrait. The writing can be a bit clunky - Sautoy is a mathematician himself, and he has an annoying habit of using the same metaphors over and over again. But he can tell a story, and it is a gripping read; he's also a convincing advocate for the idea of maths as more art than science, something that comes out through his portraits of each of the mathematicians in the story. As a model of how the sort of thing I think you're talking about might be done, I think it's worth reading.

Sounds like it could be an interesting project.

I am not even a fake mathematician (I do formal semantics etc which involves some logic & other stuff but nothing mathematically deep at all) but ...

It doesn't seem very practical to pass around a proof without a unified idea to start with. I guess if you had a group of people all of whom were ready to work on a single proof, and who all had the same basic picture about what path to take to get it but different base expertises you might get a good result. But that sounds hard to come by at least if you wanted something real.

Maybe it would work to use some sort of applied maths or logic? Ie take a particular formula or idea, perhaps something quite general, farm it out to several people, and let them work on it. Then you would get people's elaborations on one basic picture from a somewhat different angle than you proposed originally.

2 cents in the ring. :)