Tag Archives: Mobius strip

Lucea, Fiber Bundles, and Hamilton

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

The Summer Olympics are underway in Brazil. I have loved the Olympics since I was a kid. The opening ceremony is one of my favorite parts—the celebration of the host country’s history and culture, the athletes proudly marching in and representing their homeland. And the big moment when the Olympic cauldron is lit! This year I was just so delighted by the sculpture that acted as the cauldron’s backdrop.

Isn’t that amazing! The title of this enormous metal sculpture is Lucea, and it was created by American sculptor Anthony Howe. You can read about Anthony and how he came to make Lucea for the Olympics in this article. Here’s one quote from Anthony:

“I hope what people take away from the cauldron, the Opening Ceremonies, and the Rio Games themselves is that there are no limits to what a human being can accomplish.”

Here’s another view of Lucea from Anthony’s website:

Lucea is certainly hypnotizing in its own right, but I think it jumped out at me in part because I’ve been thinking a lot about fiber bundles recently. A fiber bundle is a “twist” on a simpler kind of object called a product space. You are familiar with some examples of products spaces. A square is a line “times” a line. A cylinder is a line “times” a circle. And a torus is a circle “times” a circle.


Square, cylinder, and torus.

So, what does it mean to introduce a “twist” to a product space? Well, it means that while every little patch of your object will look like a product, the whole thing gets glued up in some fancy way. So, instead of a cylinder that goes around all normal, we can let the line factor do a flip as it goes around the circle and voila—a Mobius strip!


Now, check out this image:


It’s two Mobius strips stuck together! Does this remind you of Lucea?! Instead of a line “times” a circle that’s been twisted, we have an X shape “times” a circle.

Do you think you could fill up all of space with an infinity of circles? You might try your hand at it. One answer to this puzzle is a wonderful example of a fiber bundle called the Hopf fibration. Just as you can think about a circle as a line plus one extra point to close it up, and a sphere as a plane with one extra point to close it up, the three-sphere is usual three-dimenional space plus one extra point. The Hopf fibration shows that the three-sphere is a twisted product of a sphere “times” a circle. For a really lovely visualization of this fact, check out this video:

That is some tough but also gorgeous mathematics. Since you’ve made it this far in the post, I definitely think you deserve to indulge and maybe rock out a little. And what’s the hottest ticket on Broadway this summer? I hope you’ll enjoy this superb music video about Hamilton!

William Rowan Hamilton, that is. The inventor of quaternions, explorer of Hamiltonian circuits, and reformulator of physics. Brilliant.

citymapHere are a couple of pages of Hamiltonian circuit puzzles. The goal is to visit every dot exactly once as you draw one continuous path. Try them out! Rio, where the Olympics is happening, pops up as a dot in the first one. You might even try your hand at making some Hamiltonian puzzles of your own.

Happy puzzling, and bon appetit!

Celebration of Mind, Cutouts, and the Problem of the Week

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!  We’re going to revisit the work of Martin Gardner, look at some beautiful mathematical art, and see if we can dig into a college’s “problem of the week” program.

Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner

Last October, I wrote about Martin Gardner. He is one of the great popularizers of mathematics, known for his puzzles, columns in Scientific American, and over 100 books. Around the time of his birthday, October 21st, each year, people around the world participate in a global “Gathering4Gardner” — a so-called Celebration of Mind.

Two Sipirals

One of Martin Gardner’s many puzzles

These are gatherings of two or more people taking time to dig into the kinds of mathematics that Martin Gardner loved so much. Below you can find lots of ways to participate and share with family, friends, or strangers.

First, If you want to learn more about Gardner himself, here’s a very detailed interview. You can also try solving some of Gardner’s great puzzles. We featured both of these last year, but I recently found a whole new page of resources and activities for the Celebration of Mind.

In the video on the left you can see a geometric vanish like those we’ve previously featured (Get off the Earth, and Chocolate). The second is a surprising play on the Möbius Strip which we’ve also featured before (Art and Videos + Möbius Hearts). I hope you’ll find some time this week to celebrate Martin Gardner’s love of math and help grow your own. (Though, I guess if you’re reading this, you already are!)

Up next, check out the work of artist Elena Mir. This video shows a series of artworks she created over the last four years. They feature stacks of cut paper to form geometric shapes, and they make me wonder what I could make out of cut paper. If you make something, please let us now.

It reminds me of the work of Matt Shlian that we featured in our very first post.  You can watch Matt’s TED Talk or visit his website to see all sorts of cutouts and other paper sculptures, plus incredible videos like the one below. It might be my favorite video I’ve ever posted on Math Munch.

Finally, Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota has a weekly problem that they offer to their students, and the problem archives can be found online. These are for college students, so some of them are advanced or phrased in technical language, but I think we can find some that all of us can dig in to. Give these a try:

Have a mathematical week, and let us know if you do anything for the Celebration of Mind. Bon appetit!

The Sierpinski Valentine, Cardioids, and Möbius Hearts

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

With Valentine’s Day this Thursday, let’s take a look at some mathy Valentine stuff. If you’re searching for the perfect card design for your valentine, search no more. Math Munch has you covered!

Sierpinski Valentine

Randall Munroe

xkcd creator Randall Munroe

Above you can see a clever twist on the classic Sierpinski Triangle, which I found on xkcd, a wonderfully mathematical webcomic. You can read more about xkcd creator Randall Munroe in this interview from the Sept. 2012 issue of Math Horizons. (pdf version)

LargeCardRon Doerfler designed another math-insprired Valentine’s Day card, which you can check out here. The image to the left is only part of it. Don’t get it? Well it’s a reference to a mathematical curve called the cardioid (from the Greek word for “heart”). Look what happens if you follow a point on one circle as it rolls around another. You’ll have to imagine it tipped the other way so it’s oriented like a typical heart, but that curve is a cardioid. The second animation was created by the amazing and previously featured Matt Henderson. If you have a compass, then you can make the second one at home.

Cardioid Animation

A cardioid generated by one circle rolling around another

Cardioid Animation 2

A completely different way to generate a cardioid


Pop-up Sierpinski Heart Card

Really though, nothing says “I Love you” like a Möbius strip. Am I right? Here’s a quick little project you can do to make a pair of linked Möbius hearts. You can find directions here on a blog called 360, or you can watch the video below. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough great stuff, here’s one more project from the 360 blog, a pop-up version of the Sierpinski Heart!

Happy Valentine’s Day, and bon appetit!


Möbius, Escher, Hart

Happy New Year, and welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

Next week, the Math Munch team will be part of a Mathematical Art seminar, so we are featuring some great art.

Möbius Strip II (Red Ants) | M.C. Escher

Check out the Möbius strip.  It’s a topological space you can make by by putting a twist in a looped strip of paper.  It has the bizarre property of being one-sided!  Here’s a video of someone making it, but the music is pretty strange.  I found some Möbius info on an amazing math website called Cut The Knot.  Click herehere and here for three different Möbius pages.

Möbius Strip I | M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher popularized the Möbius strip by featuring them in his famous and mathematical prints.  The picture to the right gives you some idea what happens if you cut a Möbius strip in half.  You could give that a try.

If you look at these pictures, you’ll see why mathematicians love Escher’s art so much.  Escher liked to play with the impossible in his art, but several mathematicians have made his dreams reality.  Take a look at this site called Escher For Real.  If you liked that, check out the sequel, Beyond Escher for Real.

And of course, Vi Hart has done it again, this time with two pieces of Möbius art.  First, Vi bought a DIY (do-it-yourself) music box and wrote a Möbius song!  You can get your own music box here.  She also wrote a Möbius story called Wind and Mr. Ug, and the video is embedded below.

Hoping you have a mathematical week.  Bon appetit!