A Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

Ivars Peterson in Science News Online:

F6861_79In recent times, mathematicians have demonstrated the usefulness of computer graphics for visualizing geometric forms. With a remarkable ability to convert equations into colorful, evocative images on a screen, computers now play an important role in communicating ideas, discovering patterns, and suggesting new conjectures worth testing.

Standard computer graphics by itself, however, doesn’t do justice to three-dimensional forms. Fortunately, new technologies have made it possible to create 3D models of geometric shapes, magically transforming equations into elegant, intriguing miniatures.

“Many mathematicians consider models valuable for building intuition and for communicating mathematical ideas to students and to the public,” George W. Hart of SUNY at Stony Brook writes in the current issue of the Mathematical Intelligencer. “Nothing can substitute for the visual and tactile pleasure of handling a model, spinning it in one’s hand, comparing it to another model in the other hand.”

More here.