Records Observer

News for nerds

Granted, Moby-Dick is a pretty weird (but wonderful) book, but we bet you didn’t know that it’s filled with mathematical metaphors – no, it’s not just about a whale.

That’s what mathematician and Professor Sarah Hart discovered, who was in fact the first woman professor of Mathematics and Head of Mathematics and statistics at Birbeck, University of London.

During her talk,

, she said: “Herman Melville, he really liked mathematics, when he’s reaching for an allusion or a metaphor, he’ll often pick a mathematical one!”

At the end of the book, Captain Ahab praises Pip the cabin boy with basically geometry, saying, “true art thou lad, as he circumference to its centre.” Sarah even wrote a paper on it called “Ahab’s Arithmetic: The Mathematics of Moby-Dick” to prove her point.

She believes that author Herman Melville has an “unusually good mathematical education”, and that he must have enjoyed mathematics and mathematical ideas as they show in his work.

But where does Mozart come into all this?

Well, Sarah didn’t just stop at Moby-Dick, she also discovered in her research that the violin duet in “Der Spiegel” by Mozart, demonstrates rotational symmetry.

Basically, it’s played simultaneously by two violinists sitting across a table, one plays from the beginning to the end, and the other plays from the end to the beginning. It’s also very fitting that the piece is called ‘the mirror’ in German.

Speaking to The New York Times, Sarah Hart said: “So the notes played by the first player are the same as those played by the second, except rotated through 180 degrees.”

It’s fair to say there’s a bit of mathematics in everything, even literature and music, but we’ll leave it to the brainboxes like Sarah Hart to make those discoveries we think.