Friday, December 10, 2004

Art as mathematics (or mathematics as art)

Maths is not, never has been, and never will be my favourite subject. But occasionally, some things in that exalted realm catch my attention because they are so weird, and therefore interesting. The nuts-and-bolts of mathematics dont interest me, but the innovative use of mathematical properties... well, that is definitely something to bother about.

One such facet of mathematics is topology, and it appeals to me mainly because of the Mobius strip, about which I learnt when I was fairly young (but old enough to hate maths!). The Mobius strop is basically a strip of paper that has only one side and one edge despite pretending to have two of both. I made it once, under instructions from my father, who challenged me to paint it in two colours. I couldnt believe it didnt have two sides. Doesnt EVERYTHING have at least two sides? Nope. Not the Mobius strip. Yet I couldnt believe it even after I found out that it had only one side.

This brilliant, inexplicable (ok, perhaps it's explicable, to coin a word, but I still find it unbelievable) phenomenon stayed in my mind - although it didnt bring me any closer to loving mathematics. So I was really pleased to come across a site that not only explains topology but has the fantastic drawings of Mauritz Cornelius Escher. I believe mathematicians in the 1950s were greatly impressed with M C Escher because his astonishing drawings visualised and made original use of mathematical properties. Actually, Escher has plenty of modern admirers as well, who have followed in his footsteps and created their own weird drawings (but possibly with the help of computers, I dunno).

17 comments:

hari said...

Hi Shyam,
Much as I would have hesitated to give the first comment on this post on account of my weakness and related hatred for Maths, it is the nothing but ironical that I could not find anybody to give the first comment. Unlucky Maths to have received a comment from me. Shyam frankly I could not make out anything about what you said, but I am very curious to know about this diagram or image you are talking about. Could you explain. Sorry for being such a dumb in Maths.

F e r r a r i said...

Wow. This post is really great. I enjoy maths :-) I felt very bad, I didnt do B.Sc Maths. But was happy I could do B.Sc physics ( maths best friend)

Shyam said...

Hari, you can read more about the Mobius strip at this site:
http://scidiv.bcc.ctc.edu/Math/Mobius.html
It will explain the concept a lot better than I ever can. I'm a very dumb bunny where maths is concerned, trust me. :)

Shyam said...

Prabhu, andavaa! I hated physics AND maths in school, partly because of my teachers, but mainly because the subjects didnt make the slightest impression in my brain :) I've nothing against those who like maths & physics, though - so I still think you're a nice person ;)

None said...

shyam
huh?!!!??
what's with you, mate?

Shyam said...

What? What? What's with me? I'm puzzled! That was you wasnt it, Rums? :)

b said...

shyam, i'm sorry but there was very little i cd understand in that post esp the Mobius thing. maths is NOT my strong point, and that's being charitable. now, as a sub (and a conscientious one at that), i HAVE to tell you that explicable is not a word u need to coin. it exists and means... oh well, i'm not getting into that!
so there u are, my non-mathematical contribution to your blog :-)

--Brinda

Shyam said...

Guys, girls, people! Maths isnt MY strongpoint either! :-) Note that I never once said that I UNDERSTOOD what the Moebius strip was about. All I said was, it's inexplicable and interesting. Not understandable! Most of y'all should know I'm the direct opposite of a maths genius - and for those who dont, here's news... I'm the direct opposite of a maths genius! :)

Ravi said...

Yo Shyam...I'm ashamed to admit that, after a great many years, I'm finding Maths not quite as tough as it was made to be. I say this 'coz I'm going through my elder son's 5th grade books! Perhaps my poor showing in maths was due to do with development of my pre-frontal cortex, whatever! Mine was under-developed and hibernating(much like Ramya, as she admits in her latest post) throughout school! Hence, my hatred for maths. Today, of course, its so developed that it has taken most of my forehead space. Ergo, most people think I could be a brain at anything! He he! :)

ABCD said...

Math. Love it or hate it, you simply can't ignore it. Too bad the Indian education system doesn't make math more interesting. :( But this post was excellent. So were the links in it. [Awe-struck] Could this really be math?? ----- Aswin

F e r r a r i said...

I am a nice person :-))))
Thanks for the compliment. collar thooki vittukanum pola irukku. But am wearing a t shirt :-(

Shyam said...

Prabhu - tshirt-a thookikoyen... ana konjama! :)

Shyam said...

Ravi, wow, it's cool that you now find maths not so difficult! :) I'm just really glad that I dont have to help anybody with maths. My brain just refuses to go in a mathematical direction. It causes instant amnesia! ;-)

Shyam said...

Aswin - thanks for the nice comments :-) That Escher was an amazing guy, what an imagination!

Pavithra said...

Oh Maths...but it has its compensations:-) . With a mum who's a maths genius of sorts, I couldn't escape it's...er...side-effects.:-)But dude, Escher is *really* somethin'.

Prabz said...

Maths was one of my favourite subjects!! I hate those who hate Maths.. just kidding.. I have known of this, but didnt know it had a name.. :) really interesting!!

Harry said...

The links to external sites were really wonderful. Mind boggling or should I say mind blogging ! :) Maths as an Art is indeed wonderful!