January 28, 2016

Fractal structures found in classic books

A recent study has found that the inner structure of long-form classic books follows a “cascading (avalanche) narrative structure” comparable to multifractals (fractals of fractals).

Fractals are mathematical patterns that show the same structure at different scales. They appear in nature and are easily simulated with computers since they are based on a simple recursive algorithm.

The academics write in their paper that: “Studying characteristics of the sentence-length variability in a large corpus of world famous literary texts shows that an appealing and aesthetic optimum … involves self-similar, cascade-like alternations of various lengths of sentences.” —Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books

[caption id=“attachment_39” align=“aligncenter” width=“512”]James Joyce's Finnegans wake, Annotated by Danis Rose James Joyce’s Finnegans wake, Annotated by Danis Rose[/caption]

Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce set the record in this study for “multifractality”. (Why am I not surprised?)

“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” says Prof. Drozdz. [..] Interestingly, in the analyzed pool of all the works, [stream of consciousness] turned out to be exceptionally multifractal in nature. —The world’s greatest literature reveals multifractals and cascades of consciousness

It is also interesting to see that written streams of consciousness can have signs of inner mathematical order to such degree.

[caption id=“attachment_41” align=“aligncenter” width=“379”]Finnegans Wake, handwritten manuscript by James Joyce Finnegans Wake, handwritten manuscript by James Joyce[/caption]

January 28, 2016


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