Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Vi Hart’

24 AUGUST, 2011

Mathemagician Vi Hart Explains the Science of Sound, Frequency and Pitch


From the cochlea to Coachella, or what mathematical ratios have to do with the enjoyability of melodies.

You may recall mathemagician Vi Hart from her brilliant stop-motion explanation of the Victorian novella Flatland on a Möbius strip. This month, she’s back with another gem, this time exploring the science and mathematics of sound, frequency and pitch. From Pythagoras to the anatomy of the ear, Hart uses her signature playful hand-illustrations to reveal how simple mathematical ratios make pleasing melodies.

For a semi-related treat, see Jad Abumrad’s fantastic PopTech talk on science, sound and mystery.

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20 JANUARY, 2011

Vi Hart’s Playful Mathematics: Flatland on a Möbius Strip


What Victorian novellas have to do with higher mathematics, optical illusions and illustration.

Vi Hart has a rare gift: making math cool. She distills mathematical concepts in clever, engaging, relentlessly creative ways using visual metaphors like balloons, doodling, beadwork and food to illustrate anything from Platonic solids to hyperbolic planes to binary trees.

In this fantastic 7-minute video, two months in the making, Hart takes the iconic 1884 satirical novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, which applies Victorian knowledge of higher mathematics to a witty story about a fictional two-dimensional world and a humble square who tries to wrap his mind around a third dimension, and adapts it to a Möbius strip, a non-orientable looped surface that only has one side and one boundary component, with lovely hand-drawn illustration.

(For the definitive resource on the fascinating Möbius strip, do check out The Möbius Strip: Dr. August Möbius’s Marvelous Band in Mathematics, Games, Literature, Art, Technology, and Cosmology.)

Hart’s work reminds me of Robin Moore’s string math portraits from the 1980s and Kevin Van Aelst’s edible science, a living testament to the power of playfulness as a gateway to learning.

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