We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the activity in the brains of 15 mathematicians when they viewed mathematical formulae which they had individually rated as beautiful, indifferent or ugly. Results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates parametrically with activity in the same part of the emotional brain, namely field A1 of the medial orbito-frontal cortex (mOFC), as the experience of beauty derived from other sources.
I wrote that I looked at the paper and I don’t believe it!
I think what they did wasn’t good enough to answer or even approach the question (scientifically or otherwise). . . . Meanwhile, someone can probably study sociology or culture of mathematicians to understand why mathematicians want to describe some “good” mathematics beautiful, elegant, etc.
I agree. Mathematical beauty is a fascinating topic; I just don’t think they’re going to learn much via MRI scans. It just seems like too crude a tool, kinda like writing a bunch of formulas on paper, feeding these sheets of paper to lab rats, and then performing a chemical analysis of the poop. The connection between input and output is just too noisy and indirect.
This seems like a problem that could use the collaboration of mathematicians, psychologists, and historians or sociologists. And just think of how much sociologist time you could afford, using the money you saved from not running the MRI machine!