Researchers at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland have found evidence of mathematical structures hidden in classic books. They statistically analysed more than 100 works of literature, including works by authors such as Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas and Shakespeare. They explored sentence lengths and how they varied, finding that an “overwhelming majority” had correlations in the variations of sentence length that were governed by the dynamics of a cascade. This means that their structure was fractal.
Some works however had more mathematically complex patterns and in fact, stream-of-consciousness narratives were seen to be the most complex patterns, comparable to multifractals (fractals of fractals). In particular, Finnegans Wake by James Joyce was found to be the most complex of all.
Professor Stanisław Drożdż stated that “the absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis (shown in the image below) of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals”.
However, it must be noted that works of literature will not be perfectly fractal in nature. This is because in mathematics fractal patterns are infinite, whereas in literature the book itself is finite.
I find it amazing how two such disparate fields in academia have been connected in such a beautiful way. It seems astonishing how the fractal pattern so often appears in real life and highlights how maths is truly the apt language for our universe.
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