The January 2016 issue of Scientific American ran an article by Clara Moskowitz titled "Elegant Equations" that presented a few prints from "The Concinnitas Project" which "...is a collection of ten aquatints produced from the contributions of ten mathematicians and physicists in response to the prompt to transcribe their 'most beautiful mathematical expression.'" The renowned mathematicians and scientists who contributed to the project are Michael Atiyah, Enrico Bombieri, Simon Donaldson, Freeman Dyson, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Karp, Peter Lax, David Mumford, Stephen Smale, and Steven Weinberg.
My personal favorite is "Ampère's Law," by Simon Donaldson, because it incorporates a simple line drawing along with the familiar equations. It brings back memories of sitting in electromagnetics class at the University of Vermont watching my seriously brilliant professor (no kidding), Dr. Kenneth Golden, draw boundary value problems on the chalkboard and write out formulas and proofs - all from memory. Aside: Dr. Golden always had an office full of students during office hours, during which he would work out any problem in the text book (Field and Wave Electromagnetics) as easily as most of us perform simple addition.
Next in order of most liked is "Newton's Method," by Stephen Smale. I remember learning about Newton's Method in a differential equations class, even though, technically, it is not itself a differential equation. Newton's Method (Wikipedia) provides a means of estimating successively closer approximations to the roots (or zeroes) of a real-valued (i.e., non-imaginary) function. You begin with a 'best guess' and proceed with calculations. As with most methods of convergence, this is fraught with traps that could cause the result to eventually attempt to divide by zero, or go off in a completely erroneous direction. It has been the subject of much attention.
Richard Karp's entry of "P Versus NP" immediately reminded me of Charlie Epps, the boy genius mathematician in the television show NUMB3ERS whose goal in life was to solve the P = NP quandary. I can solve it for the trivial case where N = 1 ;-)
Surprisingly, Maxwell's Equations was not chosen by any of the ten participants.
As the unwilling victim of societal sensitivity after being constantly bombarded with messages of how my type - white, heterosexual male - is responsible for all the world's evils, I feel duty-bound to point out that unless one of these ten mathematicians and scientists is self-identifying as otherwise in order to gain access to Target bathrooms, all are, well, old white guys.
Bob Feldman regarding The Concinnitas Project: "The portfolio draws its name from a word famously used by the Renaissance scholar, artist, architect, and philosopher Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) to connote the balance of number, outline, and position (in essence, number geometry, and topology) that he believed characterize a beautiful work of art."
Posted May 16, 2016