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Art for a maths department

I don’t think the university maths department I work in has enough art in it. I have gazed covetously upon the walls of other departments I visit, covered with beautiful mathematically-inspired paintings and inspirational posters, serving as a backdrop to cabinets full of geometrical curiosities. I recently suggested to our Head of School that we could buy some art, and he said “That’s a good idea. Send me some suggestions.”

I was pretty delighted with that response, so I spent an enjoyable hour trawling the internet for art that would inspire and enrich our students and staff. We don’t really have anywhere obvious to put sculptures, so I wanted something you can hang on a wall. I had no idea how much money the Head of School was thinking of spending, so I assumed the worst and tried to stick to cheap posters and prints as a starting point. I wasn’t just looking for art – anything to decorate the walls, even if it ends up teaching the students something, is desirable.

My first port of call was my Arty Maths blog. I’ve been collecting nice bits of art that invoke or involve maths (and not art created purely to represent maths) for almost two years now. Unfortunately, it turns out I’ve almost exclusively been collecting sculptures and video works. That meant I had to do some googling!

Because I found some nice things, and in case anyone else is tasked with decorating a maths department and needs ideas, here’s what I found:

IMA seeks mathematical images for anniversary book

You may have heard rumours that the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications is producing a book, published by Oxford University Press, in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary next year. The book will contain accessible and thought-provoking articles on a wide variety of topics through the spectrum of mathematics and its applications.

They’ve now announced that they’re additionally in search of images to illustrate the book, and are seeking submissions. Here’s an extract from their request for submissions.

Illustrations, photographs, computer simulations or even clever doodles — anything that’s colourful and inspirational. […] The idea is that these images should be able to stand alone, like pictures in an art gallery, with minimal explanation. They should ideally be approximately square or portrait style and sufficiently striking to be readable when reproduced at a size of approximately 10cm^2. You need to hold the copyright for the image. […] We also plan to reuse the best images (fully credited to you) in publicity for the IMA, especially its 50th Anniversary.

We’re assuming that here “10cm^2” means 10cm by 10cm, and not having an area of 10cm2, meaning $\sqrt{10}$cm by $\sqrt{10}$cm. Submissions are to be emailed, in a low resolution format initially, to ima50@maths.cam.ac.uk by or before 12th May 2013, along with any appropriate explanation or attribution text, using the word IMAGE in the header.

The IMA is also holding a competition, open to all IMA members, for articles to go in the book. Details of their anniversary celebrations, and the competition, can be found on the IMA website.

More information

We want your maths images! at Plus Magazine

IMA 50th Anniversary

Turing: THE MUSICAL!


The Universal Machine Flyer - small

I can’t believe I’m writing another “Mathematical topic: THE MUSICAL!” post so soon after the last one.

This time, the New Diorama Theatre is putting on The Universal Machine: a new musical about the life and death of Alan Turing. Here’s the blurb:

3D-printed mathematical objects roundup

3D printers are ace. People are using them to make all sorts of cool things. If you can describe a shape to a computer, it’s very easy to send that description to a 3D printer, which will happily smoosh some substrates together to make a real model of your shape. Mathematicians are able to describe all sorts of crazy shapes, in exactly the amount of detail computers need, so they’ve taken to 3D printing like ducks to water.

Thingiverse is just a repository for designs, so if you see something you like you’ll have to find your own 3D printer. Shapeways makes the objects and posts them to you; prices can vary from just a few euros to hundreds, depending on the size of the object and the materials used.

As with all other kinds of mathematical art, there’s a huge amount of repetition of the same few ideas, but also a few really interesting and unique designs. I’ve picked a couple of representatives from each of the popular topics, but do search around if you want a version with slightly different parameters; you’re bound to find something suitable.

For the past few months I’ve been quietly compiling a list of interesting mathematical objects I’ve found on the main 3D printing catalogues, Thingiverse and Shapeways. With Christmas approaching, I thought now would be as good a time as any to share what I’ve found.

Flatland2: Sphereland to be shown at MathFest

Sphereland, a follow-up to the the animated adaptation of the classic hit-literature-with-a-maths-hammer book Flatland, is to be shown at MAA MathFest in Madison, WI.

MAA Mathematical Petting Zoo

A figure 8 knot, a Temari ball with cuboctahedral symmetry and a Klein bottle in the MAA's mathematical petting zoo

The MAA recently displayed a mathematical petting zoo at the USA Science & Engineering Festival, along with a slideshow of pictures from their MAA Found Math collection.

The page about the event doesn’t have any pictures on it but it does have lots of links to the artists and their portfolios. The usual suspects are represented — non-orientable manifolds and polyhedra are in abundance — but there are a couple of unfamiliar objects, and they’re all pleasing to look at and think about.

(via MAA Found Math on Flickr)

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