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Mathematics in the Arts and Sciences

Joel Reyes Noche
Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences, Ateneo de Naga University

June 17, 2008

Based on the talk

The Role of Mathematics in the Total Development of the Human Person
given during the College of Arts and Sciences Panel Discussion
last February 9, 2008

Mathematics has applications not only in the mathemat-

ical, physical, and engineering sciences, but also in areas
such as literature, art, and the social sciences.

Mathematics is a tool for solving problems. It is also a

search for truth and beauty. Knowledge of mathematical
concepts and proficiency in mathematical skills greatly
benefit people regardless of their interests or fields of

The capture-recapture method
(Glencoe, 1994)

How many fish are in a lake? Let us call this estimate P .

Capture some fish, count them, mark them in some way, then
put them back in the lake.
Some time later, capture some more fish (call them recaptured
fish), count them, count how many have your mark, then put
them back in the lake.

number of captured fish number of recaptured marked fish

P number of recaptured fish

Proof-reading an article for typographical errors
(Barrow, 1998)

Alice and Bob independently read an article. Alice finds A typing

errors, Bob finds B typing errors. They compare copies and find
that they both found the same error C times. How many errors
are most likely to remain unfound?
Let E be the total number of errors. The number that are
unfound is U = E − A − B + C. If the probability that Alice finds
an error is p, and the probability that Bob finds an error is q, then
A = pE, B = qE, and C = pqE. Thus, AB = CE and E = AB/C.
The number of unfound errors is U = (AB/C) − A − B + C =
(AB − AC − BC + C 2)/C = (A − C)(B − C)/C, that is,

(no. found only by Alice) × (no. found only by Bob)

U =
no. found by both Alice and Bob

Who wrote
The Royal Book of Oz?
(Binongo, 2003)

L. Frank Baum wrote The

Wonderful Wizard of Oz in
1900. He died in 1919 while
writing the 14th Oz book
Glinda of Oz. The 15th Oz
book The Royal Book of
Oz, was supposedly written
by Baum and ‘enlarged and
edited’ by Ruth Thompson.
By 1939, Thompson had
published the 33rd Oz book.

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Fifty stylometric variables (word, average rate of occurence in %)

the 6.7 with 0.7 up 0.3 into 0.2 just 0.2
and 3.7 but 0.7 no 0.3 now 0.2 very 0.2
to 2.6 for 0.7 out 0.3 down 0.2 where 0.2
a/an 2.3 at 0.6 what 0.3 over 0.2 before 0.2
of 2.1 this/these 0.5 then 0.3 back 0.2 upon 0.1
in 1.3 so 0.5 if 0.3 or 0.2 about 0.1
that/those 1.0 all 0.5 there 0.3 well 0.2 after 0.1
it 1.0 on 0.5 by 0.3 which 0.2 more 0.1
not 0.9 from 0.4 who 0.3 how 0.2 why 0.1
as 0.7 one/ones 0.3 when 0.2 here 0.2 some 0.1

Function words (and not content words) were chosen. Auxiliary

verbs and personal pronouns were not included. Misspellings
were corrected and contractions were expanded.

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Each book was partitioned into blocks of 5 000 words.

This yielded a matrix of 223 text blocks and 50 words.
To help us visualize this, the multivariate statistical tech-
nique of principal component analysis was used. The best
two-dimensional approximation is found by rotating the
original 50 axes to new axes so that the latter represent
directions of decreasing variability. The 50 principal com-
ponent (PC) scores are approximated by the first two PC

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Component loadings

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Baum’s non-canonical works (Oz-related)

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Baum’s non-canonical works (not Oz-related)

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Baum’s and Thompson’s short stories

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Glinda of Oz (1920), The Royal Book of Oz (1921)

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Visitors from Oz by Gardner (1998)

Who wrote The Royal Book of Oz? (continued)
(Binongo, 2003)

Visitors from Oz by Gardner (1998)

No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock
(New York Times, 2006)

In 2006, this painting was report-

edly sold for about $140 million,
the highest sum ever known to have
been paid for a painting.

Fractal analysis of Pollock’s drip paintings
(Taylor, Micolich, & Jonas, 1999; Taylor, 2002)

Scientific objectivity proves to be an essential

tool for determining the fundamental con-
tent of the abstract paintings produced by
Jackson Pollock in the late 1940s. Pollock
dripped paint from a can onto vast canvases
rolled out across the floor of his barn. Al-
though this unorthodox technique has been
recognized as a crucial advancement in the
evolution of modern art, the precise quality
and significance of the patterns created are
controversial. Here we describe an analysis
of Pollock’s patterns which shows, first, that
they are fractal, reflecting the fingerprint of
nature, and, second, that the fractal dimen-
sions increased during Pollock’s career.

Fractals are self-similar (Taylor, 2002)

The fractal character of Pollock’s paintings
(Taylor, 2002)

The painting is scanned into a

computer. It is separated into
its different colored patterns,
then covered with a computer-
generated mesh of identical
squares. The computer analyzes
which squares are occupied and
which are empty. This is done
for different mesh sizes. The
patterns were found to be frac-
tal over the entire size range.

The fractal character of Pollock’s paintings (continued)
(Taylor, 2002)

Studying the paintings chronologically

showed that the complexity of the
fractal patterns, D, increased as Pol-
lock refined his technique.
One D value is clearly an outlier—1.9
in 1950, a work that Pollock later de-
stroyed. He may have thought this im-
age was too dense or too complex and
subsequently scaled back.

Admissions discrimination?
(COMAP, 1997, pp. 329–331)

A certain university had several limited-enrollment courses that

admit only some of the students who apply. There were com-
plaints about discrimination in the admissions process.
Eighty men applied to limited-enrollment courses and 35 were
admitted. But only 20 of the 60 women who applied were ac-
cepted. Almost half the men (44%), but only one-third of the
women (33%), were admitted.
Inferential statistics can show that this difference is much larger
than could reasonably be expected to occur simply by chance.
Can we thus safely conclude that in this case men were being
favored over women?

Admissions discrimination? (continued)
(COMAP, 1997, pp. 329–331)

There were only two limited-enrollment courses: organic chem-

istry, and history and sociology of the TV sitcom.

Organic Chemistry TV Sitcom

Men Women Men Women
Admit 5 10 Admit 30 10
Deny 15 30 Deny 30 10
Total 20 40 Total 60 20

In the organic chemistry course, one-fourth of the men and one-

fourth of the women were admitted. In the TV sitcom course,
one-half of each group got in. In all cases, women and men were
treated exactly alike.

Admissions discrimination? (continued)
(COMAP, 1997, pp. 329–331)

Most women signed up for the course that was hard to get into,
and most men applied for the easier course. That is why fewer
women than men were admitted.
The percentages of men and of women admitted were not just
a function of the admissions process, but also of which course a
student applied for.
We were misled by an inaccurate mathematical model.

Barrow, J. (1998). Impossibility: The limits of science and the science of
limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Binongo, J. (2003). Who wrote the 15th book of Oz? An application of
multivariate analysis to authorship attribution. Chance, 16(2), 9–17.
Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications. (1997). For all practical
purposes: Introduction to contemporary mathematics (4th ed.). New York:
W.H. Freeman and Company.
Glencoe. (1994). Involving parents and the community in the mathematics
classroom. New York: Macmillan/McGraw-Hill.
New York Times, The. (2006, November 2). A Pollock is sold, possibly for a
record price. Retrieved February 3, 2008 from
Taylor, R. (2002). Order in Pollock’s chaos. Scientific American, 287(6),
Taylor, R., Micolich, A., & Jonas, D. (1999). Fractal analysis of Pollock’s
drip paintings. Nature, 399, 422.