Matilde Marcolli

Matilde Marcolli is a mathematical physicist who holds positions at Caltech, the University of Toronto, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. She is the recipient of the Sofia Kovalevskaya Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

  • Lumen Naturae

    Lumen Naturae

    Visions of the Abstract in Art and Mathematics

    Matilde Marcolli

    Exploring common themes in modern art, mathematics, and science, including the concept of space, the notion of randomness, and the shape of the cosmos.

    This is a book about art—and a book about mathematics and physics. In Lumen Naturae (the title refers to a purely immanent, non-supernatural form of enlightenment), mathematical physicist Matilde Marcolli explores common themes in modern art and modern science—the concept of space, the notion of randomness, the shape of the cosmos, and other puzzles of the universe—while mapping convergences with the work of such artists as Paul Cezanne, Mark Rothko, Sol LeWitt, and Lee Krasner. Her account, focusing on questions she has investigated in her own scientific work, is illustrated by more than two hundred color images of artworks by modern and contemporary artists.

    Thus Marcolli finds in still life paintings broad and deep philosophical reflections on space and time, and connects notions of space in mathematics to works by Paul Klee, Salvador Dalí, and others. She considers the relation of entropy and art and how notions of entropy have been expressed by such artists as Hans Arp and Fernand Léger; and traces the evolution of randomness as a mode of artistic expression. She analyzes the relation between graphical illustration and scientific text, and offers her own watercolor-decorated mathematical notebooks. Throughout, she balances discussions of science with explorations of art, using one to inform the other. (She employs some formal notation, which can easily be skipped by general readers.) Marcolli is not simply explaining art to scientists and science to artists; she charts unexpected interdependencies that illuminate the universe.

    • Hardcover $44.95


  • The Meaning of Proofs

    Mathematics as Storytelling

    Gabriele Lolli

    Why mathematics is not merely formulaic: an argument that to write a mathematical proof is tantamount to inventing a story.

    In The Meaning of Proofs, mathematician Gabriele Lolli argues that to write a mathematical proof is tantamount to inventing a story. Lolli offers not instructions for how to write mathematical proofs, but a philosophical and poetic reflection on mathematical proofs as narrative. Mathematics, imprisoned within its symbols and images, Lolli writes, says nothing if its meaning is not narrated in a story. The minute mathematicians open their mouths to explain something—the meaning of x, how to find y—they are framing a narrative.

    Every proof is the story of an adventure, writes Lolli, a journey into an unknown land to open a new, connected route; once the road is open, we correct it, expand it. Just as fairy tales offer a narrative structure in which new characters can be inserted into recurring forms of the genre in original ways, in mathematics, each new abstract concept is the protagonist of a different theory supported by the general techniques of mathematical reasoning. In ancient Greece, there was more than an analogy between literature and mathematics, there was direct influence. Euclid's proofs have roots in poetry and rhetoric. Mathematics, Lolli asserts, is not the mere manipulation of formulas.

    • Paperback $24.95