ACEMS Virtual Public Lecture - When mathematics becomes art...the unexpected beauty of self-evolving mathematical functions


Weds, 7 October: 12 pm - 1 pm AEDT


This lecture will be delivered online via zoom webinar. Register to receive the link.


In this lecture, Professor Kate Smith-Miles will describe how her research quest to generate mathematical functions that are challenging and “stress-test” optimisation algorithms has led to a large collection of intricate and beautiful 2D images, arising as contour plots of mathematical functions that have been mathematically generated to create challenging landscapes.

Unable to choose which images were most beautiful, Kate and her co-author Mario Andres Munoz Acosta decided to arrange many images in an array, but noticed the formation of background structure, as localised connections between the images, depending on the arrangement. Surveying friends about their aesthetic preferences for various arrangements revealed great diversity of taste, and interesting relationships between personality traits and aesthetic preferences for structure or randomness. Representing this spectrum of preferences as a triptych of images, from random to stronger global structure, thus depicts the emergence of global structure from randomness, and hence the negative of entropy known as negentropy.

The mathematics used to generate the 306 intricate functions underpinning Negentropy Triptych will be lightly explained, and the resulting beautiful landscapes will be explored.

Negentropy Triptych is an unexpected outcome of a mathematics research project, titled 'Stress-testing algorithms: generating new test instances to elicit insights', funded by an ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship.