Maths is beautiful – a Culture Vulture outing

NB Team

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Marc and Rich took advantage of our Culture Vulture scheme – where the company pays for an outing to enjoy something cultural, here’s how they got on.


We wanted to get our Crayons out. We wanted to do some colouring. We wanted to create art. But instead of giving Peppa Pig her distinctively pink snout or drawing a unicorn riding a rainbow – they’re not real anyway, people! – we were looking for the advanced stuff.

So we recently ventured to the Barbican’s Open Salon to attend ‘maths is beautiful’, a talk in which Alex Bellos took us on a visual journey that explored – you guessed it – the beauty of maths. Using examples from his latest book, Snowflake, Seashell, Star – A Colouring Adventure in Numberland, Bellos, a mathematician, showed us how simple mathematical ideas can be translated into arts and graphics.

There were mandalas (a geometric composition with Buddhist and Hindu symbolism),



voroni diagrams (dividing the plane into cells with straight sides),


transformations (one pattern morphs into another),


periodic tilings (an arrangement of tiles with a a repeating pattern that leaves no gaps or overlaps),


and many more. Did you know the snowflake was a fractal? And that a galaxy is shaped like logarithm spiral? As Bellos explained, we find these things strangely beautiful and calming, because their patterns follow certain mathematical rules.

But while Bellos’ field guide and therapeutic exercise inspired us create and colour using said simple rules, we would have loved to find out more about why perceive so many everyday objects as being pretty or ugly (we had to look up the snowflake example ourselves…). Well, at least we got the Crayons out.