Theorems as Decoration

An article in this week’s Science News describes mathematical decorations known as sangakus—visual representations of geometric proofs that appear in Japanese temples. The article shows a sample theorem, but I find particularly striking is the use of mathematical representations for their aesthetic impact—presumably both visual and intellectual.

Tony Rothman presents several high-resolution images of sangaku on his web page, and he has also coauthored the forthcoming Sacred Mathematics with Hidetoshi Fukagawa. With any luck, that volume will shed additional light on the topic and offer a much more complete perspective on the intersection of mathematics and aesthetics in a seemingly unusual venue.

(Rothman, BTW, has authored several books: including The provocative Doubt and Certainty, which looks at epistemological questions in science from both Eastern and Western perspectives, and
the more light-hearted Everything’s Relative: And Other Fables from Science and Technology, which presents a laundry-list of oddities from the history of science. At least, those are two of his that happen to grace my shelves.)