I’m No Daniel Tammet (A Meditation on the Number 18)
Here is another product of that mathematically-induced insomnia session, the other night.
I was practicing some sheep-multiplication-tables in my head in an effort to fall asleep and got to the number 54 which for whatever reason triggered this image for me of the number 18, i.e., what it might “look” like.. a kind of composite mathematical topography. The image was so clear that, even a day later, I still felt like executing it. I started playing with it in Photoshop and then added a layer of digits to better “explain” it…
…and then couldn’t resist doing a pseudo-crypto-mystic-conspiracy-theory version:
The initial image was inspired by something that stuck in my head from a news piece about Daniel Tammet. Tammet is a very bright, talented and likable guy from England who has been featured extensively in the media for his mental abilities. Labelled a “high-functioning austistic savant ” he has has some rare abilities which he can explain and analyze very articulately. Tammet visualizes numbers as shapes, colors, motions and even sounds — it’s a kind of intuitive synesthesia— and this allows him to manipulate the number/shapes in his mind to do complex calculations with near-instant results. He describes some numbers as “attractive” (333) and some as “ugly” (289).
Apparently this how he sees Pi (“a beautiful number”), to the first 20 digits:
This very tantalizing stuff,but I couldn’t find any other images of numbers by Tammet to be able to say much more than “cool.” I’d like to see more, not just read about it. I’d like to understand this representational modality of his, by viewing and comparing different and related numbers.
Reading through the articles written about him, it seems that some of the lower positive integers are not so visual to Tammet as much as they are visceral. The number 1 is described as a flash of light, the number 2 as a right-left movement, 5 is a loud clap of thunder, 6 is a deep chasm, and apparently 9 is something very, very tall. Also, it seems that with larger and more complex numbers, some of the more basic forms/sensations get combined, somehow, to create the “hills and mountains” that he describes in interviews. Does the landscape of a composite number include the attributes of its component divisors? If 333 is “attractive,” then how about 777? Is 999 daunting? What about 729 (9 cubed)? We’re told that each number up to 10,000 has its own unique, consistent appearance… but what about the prime numbers above 10,000? One can only imagine what the landscapes of 81, 100, 256 or 5280 might look like. Are they intricate and tranquil? Terrifying and chaotic?
Starting tomorrow (May 31, 2007 @ 12pm GMT) on eBay, Tammet is auctioning off a limited edition print of his Pi painting (#1 of 50), to raise money for autism and epilepsy charities. Attention all you ironic Anthony White collectors out there — this Tammet guy is the real deal! Start your bidding now!
The “Lady Pi” image as explained by Mike Keith, with a neat graph on the statistical distribution of zeros in the binary digits of Pi.