Built on Facts

Sunday Function

This rather striking image is the imaginary part of the Airy function. Rather than a lot of words today, I’d like to just present this mathematical function as art.


I’ve always disagreed with Whitman in his assessment of science, but it is nonetheless a good thing to occasionally look up in silence at the stars – or function plots.

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.


  1. #1 Kaz Maslanka
    December 7, 2008

    I think the point Whitman is trying to make is that the mystery in the stars is a physical one whereby he sees the numbers as a manifestation of the human mind; The bottom-line being that the beauty in mathematics is a different kind of beauty than that of art.

  2. #2 CCPhysicist
    December 11, 2008

    One of my favorite functions. Plays a role in some cool optical effects, including Rainbow scattering (the supernumerary arcs?) if my memory is correct (which it probably isn’t).

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