Beauty spot or landscape blot? Computer trained to judge scenery

 

Wordsworth found it in a host of daffodils; Nan Shepherd in the nooks of the Cairngorms. For Monet it popped up all over the place, from the windmills and canals of Amsterdam, to the sailing boats of Argenteuil. What lends a scene beauty has long been left to the poets and painters to define, but that may be about to change. In a new study, researchers trained a computer to tell scenic views from blots on the landscape. One day it could help with decisions over what land to protect, and how better to design new towns and cities, the scientists claim.

Read the full story here

Magic numbers: can maths equations be beautiful?

 

Paul Dirac had an eye for beauty. In one essay, from May 1963, the British Nobel laureate referred to beauty nine times. It makes four appearances in four consecutive sentences. In the article he painted a picture of how physicists saw nature. But the word beauty never defined a sunset, nor a flower, or nature in any traditional sense. Dirac was talking quantum theory and gravity. The beauty lay in the mathematics. What does it mean for maths to be beautiful? It is not about the appearance of the symbols on the page. That, at best, is secondary. Maths becomes beautiful through the power and elegance of its arguments and formulae; through the bridges it builds between previously unconnected worlds. When it surprises. For those who learn the language, maths has the same capacity for beauty as art, music, a full blanket of stars on the darkest night.

Read the full story here