Math Is Beautiful

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | March 29, 2010 5:46 pm

I found this incredible film by Cristobal Vila (via Eterea Studios) at Cocktail Party Physics. There’s also a terrific list featuring some of Jennifer’s favorite math books for popular audiences so go visit!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Media and Science

Comments (3)

  1. Sean McCorkle

    Very nice film!

    FYI I first fell in love with the golden ratio and its connection to natural forms at an early age when I saw the Disney short Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land (the lead-in from pentagram segment ratios starts at 1:20. Towards the end, there’s a nice series of comparisons with conch and nautilus shells, compound eyes, and conifer branching.)

    I wonder how it is that so many diverse biological structures in so many different species, phyla etc. end up following the same developmental rules….

  2. Francis Muir

    now for a film illustrating that primes lie mainly in the planes..

  3. Dark Tent

    great flick.

    I taught high school geometry for a while and used to devote some time to the golden section and its occurrence in nature.

    Some of the claims you read about the golden section in popular books are just hype, of course, but the golden section (and related stuff like the logarithmic spiral and Fibonacci sequence) shows up in nature in enough (and in unexpected places) to make it clear that there is much more going on than meets the eye.

    Two of my all time favorite books on the relationship of mathematics to the forms found in nature are “On Growth and Form” (by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson) and “The Curves of Life” (by Theodore Cook).

    They are “old” books (one was written in 1914 and the other in 1917), but are two of the best — and most beautiful — I have come across.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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