Byrne’s Euclid, Helen Friel, and PolygonJazz

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch! We’ve got geometry galore, starting with a series of historical math diagrams and a color update to Euclid’s Elements. Then it’s onto modern day paper artist Helen Friel, and finally a nifty new app that makes music from polygons. Let’s get into it.

Euclid’s “Elements” was written around 300BC. It was the first great compilation of geometric knowledge, broken into 13 books, and it is one of the most influential books of all time. Euclid’s proof of the Pythagorean Theorem may be his most famous proof from the book (and all of mathematics for that matter), and in the pictures below you can see three diagrams of the proof, spanning seven centuries.

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi's 13th century arabic translation of Euclid's proof.

Persian mathematician Nasir al-Din al-Tusi‘s 13th century arabic translation of Euclid’s proof.

Late 14th century English manuscript

A late 14th century English manuscript of Euclid’s “Elements.”

The idea in each picture is that the area of the top two squares adds up exactly to the area of the bottom square. In the picture below, we see the big square broken up into blue and yellow pieces, whose areas are the same as the squares above them.

Oliver Byrne's 1871 color edition

Oliver Byrne’s 1847 color edition.  Click the image for the full proof of the Pythagorean Theorem as presented by Oliver Byrne in 1847.

This color version comes from Oliver Byrne’s 1847 edition, “The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid, with Coloured Diagrams and Symbols.” (completely available online). I find the diagrams really beautiful and charming. There’s something extremely modern about them (see De Stijl) though they’re more than 150 years old now. See if you can follow his Oliver Byrne’s version of Euclid’s proof. It’s quite short.

Paper Engineer Helen Friel
Paper Engineer Helen Friel

 

“They’re an absolutely beautiful piece of work and far ahead of their time,” said paper engineer Helen Friel. Helen lives in London, and and as part of a charity project, she designed paper sculptures of Oliver Byrne’s diagrams.

Euclid 2 Euclid 4 Euclid 3 Euclid 1

In an interview, she explained, “It’s a more visual and intriguing way to describe the geometry. I love anything that simplifies. I find it very appealing!” In the interview, Helen also talks a little about her attraction to math. “There’s order in straight lines and geometry. Although my job is creative, I use as much logical progression as possible in my work.”

It’s also cool to see Helen’s work side by side with Oliver Byrne‘s, so click for that.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 11.46.00 PM

Click to send us a pic.  Yes, that is a paper camera Helen made.

Downloadable model

Downloadable model

Perhaps the best part in all of this, though, is that you can download Helen’s Pythagaorean Theorem model and make your own! There are plain white version as well as color. If you end up making one, definitely email us a picture, and we’ll show it off here on Math Munch.

Oh, and here’s a quick video documenting the many versions Helen decided not to use.  So cool.

Now, on to our final bite.
PolygonJazz Recently, John Miller sent me an email showing off his new iPad app called PolygonJazz. In the app, you control the starting direction for a ball inside a polygon. Once you start it moving, the ball bounces off the walls, making a sound every time it hits a side. Check out the video below. I noticed something about the speed of the ball. Can you spot it? (PolygonJazz is available for $0.99 on the iTunes store.)

Speaking of bouncing around, here‘s a previous Math Munch featuring some billiards, and here‘s another bouncy post that features one of my favorite juggling routines. Michael Moschen built a gigantic equilateral triangle and juggles silicon balls inside and off of it. As with the app, Michael is utilizing the sound and geometry of the collisions to make something beautiful. It’s quite mesmerizing.

Have a bouncy week, and bon appetit!

Light Bulbs, Lanterns, and Lights Out

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

thomas-edison

Edison with his light bulb.

On this day in 1880, Thomas Edison was given a patent for his most famous bright idea—the light bulb.

Edison once said, “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”—a good reminder that putting in some work is important both in math and in life. He also said, “We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.” A humbling thought. Also, based on that quote, it sounds like Edison might have had a use for permilles or even permyraids in addition to percents!

Mike's octahedron.

Mike’s octahedron-in-a-light-buld.

In celebration of this illustrious anniversary, I’d like to share some light mathematical fare relating to, well, light bulbs. For starters, J. Mike Rollins of North Carolina has created each of the Platonic solids inside of light bulbs, ship-in-a-bottle style. Getting just the cube to work took him the better part of twelve hours! Talk about perspiration. Mike has also made a number of lovely Escher-inspired woodcuts. Check ‘em out!

Evelyn's Schwartz lantern.

Evelyn’s Schwartz lantern.

Next up is a far-out example from calculus that’s also a good idea for an art project. It’s called the Schwartz lantern. I found out about this amazing object last fall when Evelyn Lamb tweeted and blogged about it.

The big idea of calculus is that we can find exact answers to tough problems by setting up a pattern of approximations that get better and better and then—zoop! take the process to its logical conclusion at infinity. But there’s a catch: you have to be careful about how you set up your pattern!

A "nicely" triangulated cylinder.

A “nicely” triangulated cylinder.

For example, if you take a cylinder and approximate its surface with a bunch of triangles carefully, you’ll end up with a surface that matches the cylinder in shape and size. But if you go about the process in a different way, you can end up with a surface that stays right near the cylinder but that has infinite area. That’s the Schwartz lantern, first proposed by Karl Hermann Amandus Schwarz of Cauchy-Schwartz fame. The infinite area happens because of all the crinkles that this devilish pattern creates. For some delightful technical details about the lantern’s construction, check out Evelyn’s post and this article by Conan Wu.

Maybe you’ll try folding a Schwartz lantern of your own. There’s a template and instructions on Conan’s blog to get you started. You’ll be glowing when you finish it up—especially if you submit a photo of it to our Readers’ Gallery. Even better, how about a video? You could make the internet’s first Schwartz lantern short film!

Robert Torrence and his Lights Out puzzle.

Robert and his Lights Out puzzle.

At the MOVES Conference last fall, Bruce Torrence of Randolf-Macon College gave a talk about the math of Lights Out. Lights Out is a puzzle—a close relative of Ray Ray—that’s played on a square grid. When you push one of the buttons in the grid it switches on or off, and its neighbors do, too. Bruce and his son Robert created an extension of this puzzle to some non-grid graphs. Here’s an article about their work and here’s an applet on the New York Times website where you can play Lights Out on the Peterson graph, among others. You can even create a Lights Out puzzle of your own! If it’s more your style, you can try a version of the original game called All Out on Miniclip.

The original Lights Out handheld game from 1995.

The original Lights Out handheld game from 1995.

There’s a huge collection of Lights Out resources on Jaap’s Puzzle Page (previously), including solution strategies, variations, and some great counting problems. Lights Out and Ray Ray are both examples of what’s called a “sigma-plus game” in the mathematical literature. Just as a bonus, there’s this totally other game called Light Up. I haven’t solved a single puzzle yet, but my limitations shouldn’t stop you from trying. Perspiration!

All this great math work might make you hungry, so…bon appetit!

Linking Newspaper Rings, Pascal’s Colors, and Poetry of Math

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

Here’s something that sounds impossible: turn a single newspaper page into two rings, linked together, using only scissors and folding. No tape, no glue– just folding and a few little cuts.

Want to know how to do it? Check out this video by Mariano Tomatis:

On his website, Mariano calls himself the “Wonder Injector,” a “writer of science with the mission of the magician.” And that video certainly looked like magic! I wonder how the trick works…

Mariano’s website is full of fun videos involving mathe-magical tricks. I like watching them, being completely baffled, and then figuring out how the trick works. Here’s another one that I really like, about a fictional plane saved from crashing. It’s a little creepy.

How does this trick work???

Next up is one of my favorite number pattern — Pascal’s Triangle. Pascal’s Triangle appears all over mathematics– from algebra to combinatorics to number theory.

Pascal’s Triangle always starts with a 1 at the top. To make more rows, you add together two numbers next to each other and put their sum between them in the row below. For example, see the two threes beside each other in the fourth row? They add to 6, which is placed between them in the fifth row.

Pascal’s Triangle is full of interesting patterns (what can you find?)– but my favorite patterns appear when you color the numbers according to their factors.

That’s just what Brent Yorgey, computer programmer and author of the blog “The Math Less Travelled,” did! Here’s what you get if you color all of the numbers that are multiples of 2 gray and all of the numbers that aren’t multiples of 2 blue.

Recognize that pattern? It’s a Sierpinski triangle fractal!

If you thought that was cool, check out this one based on what happens if you divide all the numbers in the triangle by 5. The multiples of 5 are gray; the numbers that leave a remainder of 1 when divided by 5 are blue, remainder 2 are red, remainder 3 are yellow, and remainder 4 are green. And here’s one based on what happens if you divide all the numbers in the triangle by 6.

See the yellow Sierpinski triangle below the blue, red, green, and purple pattern? Why might the pattern for multiples of two appear in the triangle colored based on multiples of 6?

If you want to learn more about how Brent made these images and want to see more of them, check out his blog post, “Visualizing Pascal’s Triangle Remainders.”

Finally, I just stumbled across this collection of mathematical poems written by students at Arcadia University, in a class called “Mathematics in Literature.” They’re the result of a workshop led by mathematician and poet Sarah Glaz, who I met this summer at the Bridges Mathematical Art Conference. Sarah gave the students this prompt:

Step1: Brainstorm three recent school or other situations in your

present life – you can just write a few words to reference them.

Step 2: List 10-20 mathematical words you’ve used in class in the
past month.

Step 3: Write about one of the previous situations using as many
of these words as possible. Try to avoid referencing the situation
directly. Write no more than seven words per line.

Here’s one that I like:

ASPARAGUS, by Sarah Goldfarb

An infinity of hunger within me
Dividing a bunch of green
Snap and sizzle,
Green parentheses in a pan
The aromatic property
Simplifying my want
Producing a need
Each fraction of a second
Dragging its feet impatiently as I wait
And when it is distributed on my plate
It is only a moment before zero
Units of nourishment remain.

Maybe you’ll try writing a poem of your own! If you do, we’d love to see it.

Bon appetit!

Platonic Terrariums, Geometric Decor, and Multiplying Polyhedra

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch! We’ve got some beautiful geometric objects meant to house a plant or decorate your home, as well as a really clever kind of “multiplication chart” relating the Platonic solids to each other.

Icosahedron Terrarium

Icosahedron Terrarium

First up, let’s take a look at some gorgeous glass terrarium models of the Platonic solids. We don’t usually share products here on Math Munch, because we want to make sure you can enjoy the math for free, but these are so beautiful I just had to show you. I’m a sucker for spherical symmetry!

The Turning Triangles Terrarium actually sits on my mantle at home. It’s 20 pieces of triangular glass (with one hinged pane) coming together to make an icosahedron home for a little plant.

Octahedron Terrariums

Octahedron Terrariums

Above you can see a spread of octahedron terrariums, which will have to be my next purchase. Does $29 seem like a lot for one of those? I was kind of shocked to  see prices for other ones that are about 4 times that much. Take a look at the dodecahedron and cube terrariums below. They’re over $100 each, but man are they cool!?

Dodecahedron and Cube Terrariums

Dodecahedron and Cube Terrariums

I love how they stood the cube up on its corner. Did you ever think about how cutting off the corner of a cube creates a little triangle?

Speaking of cutting off corners, that’s called “truncation.” I bet you never realized the soccer ball pattern is a truncated icosahedron. Well it is! And West Elm is selling a pair of really beautiful truncated polyhedra made of Capiz shells. Below are the corner-cut versions of the icosahedron and dodecahedron.

Capiz Shell Truncated Polyhedra

Capiz Shell Truncated Polyhedra

Blue CuboctahedronWhite OctahedronOK, just a couple more. First, I love the blue and white of these two shapes. One correction: the seller calls them an “octahedron”, but they have more than 8 faces. These are actually cuboctahedra. (Can you figure out how many sides they do have?)

Metal Icosidodecahedra

Metal Icosidodecahedra

And lastly, the really cool, metal rhombicosidodecahedron. This is the shape that is used for the Zome construction kit. Check out this video showing a project we did last year. In short, we made a really big version of this out of lots of little ones.

If you end up buying one of these decorative sculptures, let us know. We’d love to see a picture of it in your house.

Finally, this is a really incredible image I found on Pinterest. Can you tell what’s going?

A Platonic solid "multiplication" chart

A Platonic solid “multiplication” chart

It’s set up like a multiplication chart, with the Platonic solids along the top and left edges. In the middle, we get a picture showing how the two shapes might be related to each other. I could (and have) stared at this for hours!

A1

A1

In the A1 position, for example, we have a picture showing that the tetrahedron is the dual of the tetrahedron. That means, when you connect the centers of the faces on the tetrahedron, you get another tetrahedron!

B3

B3

E4

E4

B2

B2

B1

B1

C3

C3

B3 shows that the octhahedron is the dual of the cube. E4 shows that the icosahedron is the dual of the dodecahedron. B2 appears to be a hypercube, and B1 shows the way that a tetrahedron can be made by connecting alternating corners of a cube. It’s a fascinating chart, and I hope you’ll take some time to check it out. Can you figure out what’s going on in C3?

I would love to know where this image came from, but I can’t find anything about it. If you know anything about the origin of the chart, please let us know.

Well that’s it. I hope you found something juicy. Bon appetit!

Virtual Hyenas, Markov Chains, and Random Knights

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

It’s amazing how a small step can lead to a chain reaction of adventure.

Arend Hintze

Arend Hintze

Recently a reader named Nico left a comment on the Math Munch post where I shared the game Loops of Zen. He asked why the game has that name. Curious, I looked up Dr. Arend Hintze, whose name appears on the game’s title page. This led me to Arend’s page at the Adami Lab at Michigan State University. Arend studies how complex systems—especially biological systems—evolve over time.

Here is a video of one of Arend’s simulations. The black and white square is a zebra. The yellow ones are lions, the red ones are hyenas, and guess who’s hungry?

Arend’s description of the simulation is here. The cooperative behavior in the video—two hyenas working together to scare away a lion—wasn’t programmed into the simulation. It emerged out of many iterations of systems called Markov Brains—developed by Arend—that are based upon mathematical structures called Markov chains. More on those in a bit.

You can read more about how Arend thinks about his multidisciplinary work on biological systems here. Also, it turns out that Arend has made many more games besides Loops of Zen. Here’s Blobs of Zen, and Ink of Zen is coming out this month! Another that caught my eye is Curve, which reminds me of some of my favorite puzzle games. Curve is still in development; here’s hoping we’ll be able to play it soon.

Arend has agreed to do an interview with Math Munch, so share your questions about his work, his games, and his life below!

Eric Czekner

Eric Czekner

Arend’s simulations rely on Markov chains to model animal behavior. So what’s a Markov chain? It’s closely related to the idea of a random walk. Check out this video by digital artist, musician, and Pure Data enthusiast Eric Czekner. In the video, Eric gives an overview of what Markov chains are all about and shows how he uses them to create pieces of music.

On this page, Eric describes how he got started using Markov chains to make music, along with several of his compositions. It’s fascinating how he captures the feel of a song by creating a mathematical system that “generates new patterns based on existing probabilities.”

Now there’s a big idea: exploring something randomly can capture structures that might be hard to perceive otherwise. Here’s one last variation on the Markov chain theme that involves a pure math question. This blog post ponders the question: what happens when a knight takes a random walk—or random trot?—on a chessboard? It includes some colorful images of chessboards along the way.

How likely it is that a knight lands on each square after five moves, starting from b1.

How likely it is that a knight lands on each square after five moves, starting from b1.

The probabili

How likely it is that a knight lands on each square after 200 moves, starting from b1.

The blogger—Leonid Kovalev—shows in his analysis what happens in the long run: the number of times a knight will visit a square will be proportional to the number of moves that lead to that square. For instance, since only two knight moves can reach a corner square while eight knight moves can reach a central square, it’s four times as likely that a knight will finish on a central square after a long, long journey than on a corner square. This idea works because moving a knight around a chessboard is a “reversible Markov chain”—any path that a knight can trace can also be untraced. The author also wrote a follow-up post about random queens.

It’s amazing the things you can find by chaining together ideas or by taking a random walk. Thanks for the inspiration for this post, Nico. Keep those comments and questions coming, everyone—we love hearing from you.

Bon appetit!

Math Meets Art, Quarto, and Snow!

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

article-0-19F9E81700000578-263_634x286… And, if you happen to write the date in the European way (day/month/year), happy Noughts and Crosses Day! (That’s British English for Tic-Tac-Toe Day.) In Europe, today’s date is 11/12/13– and it’s the last time that the date will be three consecutive numbers in this century! We in America are lucky. Our last Noughts and Crosses Day was November 12, 2013 (11/12/13), and we get another one next year on December 13 (12/13/14). To learn more about Noughts and Crosses Day and find out about an interesting contest, check out this site. And, to our European readers, happy Noughts and Crosses Day!

p3p13Speaking of Noughts and Crosses (or Tic-Tac-Toe), I have a new favorite game– Quarto! It’s a mix of Tic-Tac-Toe and another favorite game of mine, SET, and it was introduced to me by a friend of mine. It’s quite tricky– you’ll need the full power of your brain to tackle it. Luckily, there are levels, since it can take a while to develop a strategy. Give it a try, and let us know if you like it!

BRUCKER-ICS-DARKRYE-SQUARE

Looking to learn about some new mathematical artists? Check out this article, “When Math Meets Art,” from the online magazine Dark Rye. It profiles seven mathematical artists– some of whom we’ve written about (such as Erik and Martin Demaine, of origami fame, and Henry Segerman), and some of whom I’ve never heard of. The work of string art shown above is by artist Adam Brucker, who specializes in making “unexpected” curves from straight line segments.

gauss17_smallAnother of my favorites from this article is the work of Robert Bosch. One of his specialities is making mosaics of faces out of tiles, such as dominoes. The article features his portrait of the mathematician Father Sebastien Truchet made out of the tiles he invented, the Truchet tiles. Clever, right? The mosaic to the left is of the great mathematician Gauss, made out of dominoes. Check out Robert’s website to see more of his awesome art.

Finally, it snowed in New York City yesterday. I love when it snows for the first time in winter… and that got me wanting to make some paper snowflakes to celebrate! Here’s a video by Vi Hart that will teach you to make some of the most beautiful paper snowflakes.

Hang them on your windows, on the walls, or from the ceiling, and have a very happy wintery day! Bon appetit!

Jim Loy, Exploding Dots, and an Advent Calendar

Jim Loy

Jim Loy

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch! We’ve got a mathematical advent calendar for you, two new puzzle pages, and a whole course’s worth of videos and problems to think about. Let’s get into it.

Up first, if you like you can read all about Jim Loy (and just about anything else) on his enormous website. The thing I want to share with you are Jim’s puzzle pages. You could pull out some toothpicks or spaghetti and try these matchstick puzzles, or perhaps you want to give his maze a try. Or maybe you just want to learn about the pig pen cipher, a kind of code.

Matchstick Puzzles

Matchstick Puzzles

Jim's Maze

Jim’s Maze

pig pen cipher

Pig Pen Cipher

advent calendar 2Up next, some math in the holiday spirit. Plus Magazine has a nice little advent calendar going on again this year. They’re counting down to Christmas by posting their “favourite bits of maths” – a new post each day. On the website you can see preview pictures for each day, which has me pretty excited. What could #7 be? What is going on in 18?! Check out #2. It’s a nice little explanation of a classic math story about Achilles and the tortoise. (Zeno’s Paradox). Plus Magazine is a great website in general, but you have to be prepared to do some reading. According to their about page,

Plus is an internet magazine which aims to introduce readers to the beauty and the practical applications of mathematics. A lot of people don’t have a very clear idea what “real” maths consists of, and often they don’t realise how many things they take for granted only work because of a generous helping of it.”

BONUS:  Take a look at the Plus Mag puzzle page!

Finally, you might remember James Tanton for his partition videos. Well, he just released a really cool series of videos and math activities that’s completely free and online. It’s kind of an entire math course (but it’s unlike any course you’ve  seen before), and it’s called “Exploding Dots.” As James says in the intro video above, this is his favorite topic of all time! The course is broken up into 4 lessons, with a handful of videos in each lesson, and there are some really nice questions to think about. I’ve studied math for many years at this point, but there were lots of things that surprised me.

If you’re ready to dig in, here’s a link to Lesson 1.1 Base Machines.

Have a great week, and bon appetit!