How the visualization of complex data helps mathematicians to think

Posted on October 31, 2006. Filed under: English |

There is a long history of visualization of complex data, starting with the invention of the pie and bar charts to the representation of fractals by French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot in the seventies. These techniques are used for different objectives.

Its is still unclear how some geniuses "see" the results of complex calculations in the minds before telling it, and I would have loved discussing with Nikola Tesla, famous scientist from Serbia. He was able to manipulate complex concepts and algorythms in his mind the same way we manipulate building blocks or food ingredients to come to a completely new result, in a process often called picture thinking.

There has always been an attraction by the scientists to graphical representations of things a man could not normally see or understand, and numerous competions are often organized. The objective being here more educational, for the masses to see and touch areas of science they would usually shrug off as being useless. See the recent Science contest.

Computer-generated rendering of five famous mathematical surfaces
 

Some extreme examples include topologists, mathematicians who study imaginary multidimensional shapes (like Möbius strips, torus, manifold, …). In a recent article by Wired there was even one who designs them using only Lego bricks !

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