Scholarly Article No. 1 on Greatest Hits List
A scholarly article by Alma College mathematics professor John Putz is No. 1 on Mathematics Magazine’s greatest hits list.
The magazine, in existence for more than 75 years, became available on the Web in 2002 through the JSTOR archive, an online database to which many college libraries and other institutions subscribe. Through JSTOR, readers have access to a huge collection of articles.
A recent analysis of Web hits determined the most frequently viewed articles in the history of Mathematics Magazine. Topping the list is an October 1995 article by Putz titled “The Golden Section and the Piano Sonatas of Mozart.”
“The list includes articles from every decade of Mathematics Magazine’s
existence, except the 1920s,” writes Ivars Peterson, director of
publications for journals and communications for the Mathematical
Association of America. “The topics are widely varied, though there is
a distinct bias toward the history of mathematics.”
In addition to the article by Putz, the top 15 most frequently viewed articles include “Humanizing Mathematics,” by R.C. Archibald, November 1932; “The Influence of Mathematics on the Philosophy of Descartes” by R. H. Moorman, April 1943; and “Rigor and Proof in Mathematics: A Historical Perspective” by Israel Kleiner, December 1991.
The article by Putz, a member of the Alma College faculty since 1981, describes a mathematics ratio called the Golden Ratio, or the Golden Section, which some people think represents the most aesthetically pleasing proportions.
“For example, take a line segment and divide it by a point,” says Putz. “If the ratio of the smaller section to the larger section is the same proportion as the larger section to the whole, then you have the Golden Ratio.
“I was talking with my son, who in 1995 was studying music in college, and he explained to me how Mozart’s piano sonatas were divided into two parts. I knew that Mozart’s music is considered beautifully proportioned, and I began to wonder whether the sonatas were divided according to the Golden Ratio. So I investigated it. At first the music appeared to reflect the Golden Section, but as I looked deeper, I found that it really doesn’t. I wrote the article, submitted it, and it was published,” he says.
Putz guesses that the popularity of his article is connected to public interest in the Mozart Effect, a term used to describe the alleged increase in brain development that occurs in children under age 3 when they listen to Mozart.
“It’s a popular thing to connect music and mathematics,” he says. “My research in 1995 was a curiosity to me then, but it isn’t something I have continued to study.”
His son, Kevin, now 35 and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music in New York and Yale University, is a professional composer who writes compositions for major orchestras. This past summer, Kevin was commissioned to write a piece for the New York Philharmonic. John, his wife, and his son attended the premiere at Lincoln Center in July.
Posted: Fri, September 21st, 2007 at 11:08AM