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Intricate knotwork from the Book of Kells
Intricate knotwork from the Book of Kells
To accompany the telling of a story or recounting of a fable, men of the Chokwe people in south-central Africa traditionally made sand drawings, called sona, to illustrate the tale.
To accompany the telling of a story or recounting of a fable, men of the Chokwe people in south-central Africa traditionally made sand drawings, called sona, to illustrate the tale.

Press Release - 07 September 2006

Maths “as creative as the arts”, says Professor

EMBARGOED UNTIL 14.00 HRS LONDON TIME (BST) THURSDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2006

Mathematics is every bit as creative as the arts, says a leading scientist speaking at the BA Festival of Science in Norwich today (Thursday 7 September 2006).

As well as using mathematics to understand the patterns involved in everything from Celtic knot work to the choreography of morris dancing, the imaginative use of maths can help create new forms of art.

It was Johann Sebastian Bach’s use of mathematics that helped him reconcile the problems associated with tuning different octaves of the clavier, and enabled the flexibility needed for more complex compositions to be played.

“Maths and the arts are often seen as mutually exclusive, but in fact they are deeply interwoven,” said Professor Chris Budd from Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Bath.

“Many people think of art as creative, but maths is every bit as creative. If you understand a bit of maths you can use it to produce great art.

“We have some amazing examples of the application of maths and geometry in Celtic artwork such as the Book of Kells and the sona sand art of sub Saharan Africa.

“In music it is mathematics that helps us understand and manipulate pitch, scales and chords.

“It is also the mathematics of symmetry that enables dance and choreography to work within the context of the music.”

The interactive Festival session, Why maths needs the arts and why the arts need maths (14.00 -16.00, Elizabeth Fry Building) with Professor Robin Wilson from Open University, will include an interlude in which the audience will be encouraged to dance to the tune of mathematics.

Chris Budd is Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Bath and Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Institution.

His research is in the application of mathematics to problems arising in the real world, from microwave cooking of food to land mine detection, and from chaos to the mathematics of dancing.

He is a passionate populariser of mathematics and gives many talks to schools on subjects as varied as mazes, sundials, African art and the maths behind crime detection. He is currently the president of the maths section of the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science).

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Notes

The BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) is the UK's nationwide, open membership organisation that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. Established in 1831, the BA organises major initiatives across the UK, including the annual BA Festival of Science, National Science Week, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges.


The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University's press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/