Love and Math

By Shawn Radcliffe

Photo by Elizabeth Lippman

When you think of love, mathematics may be the last thing that comes to mind, but mathematician Edward Frenkel is on a quest to change all that. With his recent book, Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality, Frenkel sets out to instill others with his passion for a subject that many people shy away from.

“There is room for the spiritual in math, just as there is room for magic,” he told Chris Carter, the creator of the X-Files, in an interview at the Los Angeles Public Library. “And I want us all to awaken to this hidden reality.”

For Frenkel, mathematics is filled with elegance and beauty, just like art, music and poetry. And just like those traditionally artistic endeavors, mathematics contains infinite possibilities, an unbounded imagination that allows us to move beyond the conventional and toward the ultimate truths of the universe.

Galileo said, “The laws of Nature are written in the language of mathematics.” Like Galileo, Frenkel sees mathematics as a universal language, one that describes how the world works. Lurking behind the shapes and curves of the universe, mathematics ties together everything, from the smallest particles to the largest stars.

In addition, these universal truths of mathematics cannot be distorted—unlike our perceptions of the physical world—because they are entirely objective. More importantly, mathematical formulas and theorems transcend religion, race and gender, and will contain the same meaning a hundred or a thousand years from now.

Frenkel hopes that the universality of mathematics—one that highlights our interconnectedness—will help people appreciate and marvel at the beauty and harmony of its formulas, equations and ideas. This love of mathematics, in turn, can invigorate our love for the world and each other.

Edward Frenkel, Ph.D. is Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.
See below the trailer of “Rites of Love and Math” a Film by Reine Graves and Edward Frenkel.

This article was first published in September of 2014.
Ed Frenkel will speaking at SAND15 on Cartesianism as the Effect of our Collective Childhood Trauma