The beauty of the numbers: the course of the clouds

nuvole in movimento

The beauty of the numbers: the course of the clouds

Dear little friends of Sofia,

Do you like numbers? What is your relationship with calculations, problems, theorems and formulas? I mean, do you love math?

Even if I graduated in philosophy, I love this discipline. Moving through numbers, letters, monomials and polynomials by looking for possible solutions or logical keys has always fascinated me.


I think that everything is number. In its abstractness and ineffability, it is certainly the most appropriate instrument to describe ourselves and the reality that surrounds us.


In fact the physicist, astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei emphasized how nature is written with the language of numbers:

“The natural philosophy is written in this great book that is continually open in front of our eyes, I say the universe […] It is written in mathematical language, and the characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without them it is impossible to understand humanly word; Without these it is an invain wandering in a dark labyrinth. “ The Essager, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), physicist, astronomer, writer. (from

Now think a moment to the clouds, to their changing form but above all to their movement. Have you ever wondered if it is possible to predict their direction and destination? Someone has tried to answer this question using the mathematical language for a very long time before the young Italian mathematician, Alessio Figalli, who solved  this problem by elaborating the equation of motion of clouds (or optimal transport) and obtaining for this the Fileds medal, the “Nobel” of mathematics.

Figalli has compared every single particle of water vapor constituting a cloud to an ideal soap bubble, subjected to external and internal forces. Studying their action, characteristics and intensity he has elaborated his mathematical model, actually already intuited about seventy years ago by the Italian theorist Ennio De Giorgi, and that will surely be used in meteorological field.

soap bubbles

“[…] To understand how the soap bubble has changed – he explains (Figalli)-compare an ideal bubble with a real one, deformed by external forces, thinking about these objects as compounds of particles. […] With the same approach it is possible to describe atmospheric fronts on a large scale. “The idea is to photograph the clouds in close periods. We know that clouds are composed of water vapour: in the photos we see images of billions and billions of particles moved from one configuration to another and the problem is to say how each particle has moved”. (from )

For the moment, however, waiting for a practical application of this theoretical intuition, we continue to admire the clouds that overlook our heads, guessing their shapes and  stories but above all admiring the eternal but at the same time changing beauty.


Maria Domenica Depalo

Pubblicato da fuoritempofuoriluogo

Salve, mi chiamo Maria Domenica Depalo. Sono nata e cresciuta in Germania ma vivo in Italia da moltissimi anni. Sono appassionata di filosofia, matematica, psicologia e lingue straniere. Ho scritto due libri: "Il dono e altri racconti" e "Il problema della memoria. Aspetti filosofici e scientifici". Sono fondatrice ed editor in chief di "fuoritempofuoriluogo" e di "freewordsmagazine". Se vi va, leggete i miei articoli, commentateli e condivideteli.

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