## Posts Tagged 'Geometry'

### The Waffle Cone and a new Proof of Pythagoras’ Theorem

Jackson an’ Johnson / Murphy an’ Bronson /
One by one dey come / An’ one by one to dreamland dey go.
[From Carmen Jones.  Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein] Euclid’s Theorem I-47, also known as Pythagoras’ Theorem, in Oliver Byrne’s colourful text, The Elements of Euclid.

Two young high-school students from New Orleans, Ne’Kiya Jackson and Calcea Johnson, recently presented a new proof of the Pythagorean theorem at a meeting of the American Mathematical Society in Georgia. It has been widely believed that no proof based on trigonometry was possible but we now know that to be false. Continue reading ‘The Waffle Cone and a new Proof of Pythagoras’ Theorem’

### Wonky Wheels on Wacky Roads Tricycles with three square wheels, each a different size. Image from the Museum of Mathematics, New York.

Imagine trying to cycle along a road with a wavy surface. Could anything be done to minimise the ups-and-downs? In general, this would be very difficult, but in ideal cases a simple solution might be possible. Continue reading ‘Wonky Wheels on Wacky Roads’

### Ford Circles & Farey Series American mathematician Lester Randolph Ford Sr. (1886–1967) was President of the Mathematical Association of America from 1947 to 1948 and editor of the American Mathematical Monthly during World War II. He is remembered today for the system of circles named in his honour.

For any rational number ${p/q}$ in reduced form ( ${p}$ and ${q}$ coprime), a Ford circle is a circle with center at ${(p/q,1/(2q^{2}))}$ and radius ${1/(2q^{2})}$. There is a Ford circle associated with every rational number. Every Ford circle is tangent to the horizontal axis and each two Ford circles are either tangent or disjoint from each other.

### Curvature and the Osculating Circle Curvature is of critical importance in numerous contexts. An example is shown in the figure above, a map of the Silverstone Formula 1 racetrack. The sharp bends (high curvature) force drivers to reduct speed drastically.

### Curvature and Geodesics on a Torus

We take a look at the curvature on a torus, and the various forms that geodesics can have. These are compared to the geodesics on a “flat torus”.
Continue reading ‘Curvature and Geodesics on a Torus’

### Finding the Area of a Field

It is a tricky matter to find the area of a field that has irregular or meandering boundaries. The standard method is to divide the field into triangular parts. If the boundaries are linear, this is simple. If they twist and turn, then a large number of triangles may be required.

### Dynamic Equations for Weather and Climate

“I could have done it in a much more complicated way”,
said the Red Queen, immensely proud. — Lewis Carroll.

Books on dynamic meteorology and oceanography usually have a full chapter devoted to the basic dynamical equations. Since the Earth’s fluid envelop is approximately a thin spherical shell, spherical coordinates ${(\lambda,\varphi, r)}$ are convenient. Here ${\lambda}$ is the longitude and ${\varphi}$ the latitude. In Figure 1 we show the momentum equations as presented in the monograph of Lorenz (1967): Fig 1. The momentum equations, as in Lorenz (1967). The metric terms are boxed.

### Poincare’s Square and Unbounded Gomoku

Henri Poincar’e was masterful in presenting scientific concepts and ideas in an accessible way. To explain that the Universe might be bounded and yet infinite, he imagined that the temperature of space decreased from the centre to the periphery in such a way that everything contracted with the distance from the centre. As travellers moved outward from the centre, everything got smaller in such a way that it would take an infinite time to reach the boundary.

### Fields Medals presented at IMC 2022

Every four years, at the International Congress of Mathematicians, the Fields Medal is awarded to two, three, or four young mathematicians. To be eligible, the awardees must be under forty years of age. For the chosen few, who came from England, France, Korea and Ukraine, the award, often described as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics, is the crowning achievement of their careers [TM235 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. Clockwise from top left: Maryna Viazovska, James Maynard, June Huh and Hugo Duminil-Copin. Image Credits: Mattero Fieni, Ryan Cowan, Lance Murphy.

The congress, which ran from 6th to 14th July, was originally to take place in St Petersburg. When events made that impossible, the action shifted to Helsinki and the conference presentations were moved online. The International Mathematical Union generously allowed participants to register at no cost.

### A Finite but Unbounded Universe Henri Poincaré described a beautiful geometric model with some intriguing properties. He envisioned a circular disk in the Euclidean plane, where distances were distorted to give it geometric properties quite different from those of Euclid’s Elements. He supposed that the temperature varied linearly from a fixed value at the centre of the disk to absolute zero on the boundary, and that lengths varied in proportion to the temperature.

### The Whole is Greater than the Part — Or is it?

Euclid flourished about fifty years after Aristotle and was certainly familiar with Aristotle’s Logic.  Euclid’s organization of the work of earlier geometers was truly innovative. His results depended upon basic assumptions, called axioms and “common notions”. There are in total 23 definitions, five axioms and five common notions in The Elements. The axioms, or postulates, are specific assumptions that may be considered as self-evident, for example “the whole is greater than the part”  [TM232 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. Continue reading ‘The Whole is Greater than the Part — Or is it?’

### Buffon’s Noodle and the Mathematics of Hillwalking

In addition to some beautiful photos and maps and descriptions of upland challenges in Ireland and abroad, the November issue of The Summit, the Mountain Views Quarterly Newsletter for hikers and hillwalkers, describes a method to find the length of a walk based on ideas originating with the French naturalist and mathematician George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon [TM224 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. [Image from November issue of The Summit, the Mountain Views Quarterly Newsletter.]

Continue reading ‘Buffon’s Noodle and the Mathematics of Hillwalking  ‘

### The Square Root Spiral of Theodorus

The square-root spiral is attributed to Theodorus, a tutor of Plato. It comprises a sequence of right-angled triangles, placed edge to edge, all having a common point and having hypotenuse lengths equal to the roots of the natural numbers.

The spiral is built from right-angled triangles. At the centre is an isosceles triangle of unit side and hypotenuse ${\sqrt{2}}$. Another triangle, with sides ${1}$ and ${\sqrt{2}}$ and hypotenuse ${\sqrt{3}}$ is stacked upon the first. This process continues, giving hypotenuse lengths ${\sqrt{n}}$ for all ${n}$.

### Seeing beyond the Horizon

From a hilltop, the horizon lies below the horizontal level at an angle called the “dip”. Around AD 1020, the brilliant Persian scholar al-Biruni used a measurement of the dip, from a mountain of known height, to get an accurate estimate of the size of the Earth. It is claimed that his estimate was within 1% of the true value but, since he was not aware of atmospheric refraction and made no allowance for it, this high precision must have been fortuitous  [TM213 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

### Al Biruni and the Size of the Earth

The 11th century Persian mathematician Abu Rayhan al-Biruni used simple trigonometric results to estimate the radius and circumference of the Earth. His estimate has been quoted as 6,340 km, which is within 1% of the mean radius of 6,371 km. While al-Biruni’s method was brilliant and, for its era, spectacular, the accuracy claimed must be regarded with suspicion.

Al-Biruni assumed that the Earth is a perfect sphere of (unknown) radius ${a}$. He realised that because of the Earth’s curvature the horizon, as viewed from a mountain-top, would appear to be below the horizontal direction. This direction is easily obtained as being orthogonal to the vertical, which is indicated by a plumb line.

### Multi-faceted aspects of Euclid’s Elements A truncated octahedron within the coronavirus [image from Cosico et al, 2020].

Euclid’s Elements was the first major work to organise mathematics as an axiomatic system. Starting from a set of clearly-stated and self-evident truths called axioms, a large collection of theorems is constructed by logical reasoning. For some, the Elements is a magnificent triumph of human thought; for others, it is a tedious tome, painfully prolix and patently pointless  [TM211 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. Continue reading ‘Multi-faceted aspects of Euclid’s Elements’

### A Model for Elliptic Geometry

For many centuries, mathematicians struggled to derive Euclid’s fifth postulate as a theorem following from the other axioms. All attempts failed and, in the early nineteenth century, three mathematicians, working independently, found that consistent geometries could be constructed without the fifth postulate. Carl Friedrich Gauss (c. 1813) was first, but he published nothing on the topic. Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky, around 1830, and János Bolyai, in 1832, published treatises on what is now called hyperbolic geometry.

### Mamikon’s Theorem and the area under a cycloid arch

The Cycloid

The cycloid is the locus of a point fixed to the rim of a circular disk that is rolling along a straight line (see figure). The parametric equations for the cycloid are $\displaystyle x = r (\theta - \sin\theta)\,, \qquad y = r (1 - \cos\theta ) \ \ \ \ \ (1)$

where ${\theta}$ is the angle through which the disk has rotated. The centre of the disk is at ${(x_0,y_0) = (r\theta, r)}$. * * * * *

That’s Maths II: A Ton of Wonders

by Peter Lynch now available.
Full details and links to suppliers at
http://logicpress.ie/2020-3/

>>  Review in The Irish Times  <<

* * * * *

### Decorating Christmas Trees with the Four Colour Theorem When decorating our Christmas trees, we aim to achieve an aesthetic balance. Let’s suppose that there is a plenitude of baubles, but that their colour range is limited. We could cover the tree with bright shiny balls, but to have two baubles of the same colour touching might be considered garish. How many colours are required to avoid such a catastrophe? [TM200 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

### From Impossible Shapes to the Nobel Prize

Roger Penrose, British mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science has just been named as one of the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics. Penrose has made major contributions to general relativity and cosmology. Impossible triangle sculpture in Perth, Western Australia [image Wikimedia Commons].

Penrose has also come up with some ingenious mathematical inventions. He discovered a way of defining a pseudo-inverse for matrices that are singular, he rediscovered an “impossible object”, now called the Penrose Triangle, and he discovered that the plane could be tiled in a non-periodic way using two simple polygonal shapes called kites and darts.

### Jung’s Theorem: Enclosing a Set of Points

Let us imagine that we have a finite set ${P}$ of points in the plane ${\mathbb{R}^2}$ (Fig. 1a). How large a circle is required to enclose them. More specifically, what is the minimum radius of such a bounding circle?  The answer is given by Jung’s Theorem. Left: a set P of points in the real plane. Right: The span s is the maximum distance between two points of P.

### Changing the way that we look at the world Self-portrait by Dürer when aged 26.

Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg in 1471, third of a family of eighteen children. Were he still living, he would be celebrating his 549th birthday today. Dürer’s artistic genius was clear from an early age, as evidenced by a self-portrait he painted when just thirteen [TM187; or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com ].

In 1494, Dürer visited Italy, where he travelled for a year. A novel connection between art and mathematics was emerging around that time. By using rules of perspective, artists could represent objects in three-dimensional space on a plane canvas with striking realism. Dürer was convinced that the new art must be based upon science; in particular, upon mathematics, as the most exact, logical, and graphically constructive of the sciences”.

### A New Perspective on Perspective

The development of perspective in the early Italian Renaissance opened the doors of perception just a little wider. Perspective techniques enabled artists to create strikingly realistic images. Among the most notable were Piero della Francesca and Leon Battista Alberti, who invented the method of perspective drawing. School of Athens, a fresco painted by Raphael in 1509-11 illustrates the power of perspective.

### John Casey: a Founder of Modern Geometry John Casey (1820-1891).

Next Tuesday – 12th May – is the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Casey, a notable Irish geometer. Casey was born in 1820 in Kilbeheny, Co Limerick. He was educated in nearby Mitchelstown, where he showed great aptitude for mathematics and also had a gift for languages. He became a mathematics teacher, first in Tipperary Town and later in Kilkenny [TM186; or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com ].

### Archimedes and the Volume of a Sphere

One of the most remarkable and important mathematical results obtained by Archimedes was the determination of the volume of a sphere. Archimedes used a technique of sub-dividing the volume into slices of known cross-sectional area and adding up, or integrating, the volumes of the slices. This was essentially an application of a technique that was — close to two thousand years later — formulated as integral calculus. Cone, sphere and cylinder on the same base. The volumes are in the ratios  1 : 2 : 3 [image from mathigon.org].

Continue reading ‘Archimedes and the Volume of a Sphere’

### Some Fundamental Theorems of Maths

Every branch of mathematics has key results that are so
important that they are dubbed fundamental theorems.

The customary view of mathematical research is that of establishing the truth of propositions or theorems by rigorous deduction from axioms and definitions. Mathematics is founded upon axioms, basic assumptions that are taken as true. Logical reasoning is then used to deduce the consequences of those axioms with each major result designated as a theorem.

As each new theorem is proved, it provides a basis for the establishment of further results. The most important and fruitful theorem in each area of maths is often named as the fundamental theorem of that area. Thus, we have the fundamental theorems of arithmetic, algebra and so on. For example, the fundamental theorem of calculus gives the relationship between differential calculus and integral calculus.

### Symplectic Geometry For many decades, a search has been under way to find a theory of everything, that accounts for all the fundamental physical forces, including gravity. The dictum “physics is geometry” is a guiding principle of modern theoretical physics. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which emerged just one hundred years ago, is a crowning example of this synergy. He showed how matter distorts the geometry of space and this geometry determines the motion of matter. The central idea is encapsulated in an epigram of John A Wheeler: $\displaystyle \mbox{Matter tells space how to curve. Space tells matter how to move.}$

### Chase and Escape: Pursuit Problems From cheetahs chasing gazelles, through coastguards saving shipwrecked sailors, to missiles launched at enemy aircraft, strategies of pursuit and evasion play a role in many areas of life (and death). From pre-historic times we have been solving such pursuit problems. The survival of our early ancestors depended on their ability to acquire food. This involved chasing and killing animals, and success depended on an understanding of relative speeds and optimal pursuit paths.

### Gaussian Curvature: the Theorema Egregium Surfaces of positive curvature (top), negative curvature (middle) and vanishing curvature (bottom) [image credit: NASA].

One of greatest achievements of Carl Friedrich Gauss was a theorem so startling that he gave it the name Theorema Egregium or outstanding theorem. In 1828 he published his “Disquisitiones generales circa superficies curvas”, or General investigation of curved surfaces. Gauss defined a quantity that measures the curvature of a two-dimensional surface. He was inspired by his work on geodesy, surveying and map-making, which involved taking measurements on the surface of the Earth. The total curvature — or Gaussian curvature — depends only on measurements within the surface and Gauss showed that its value is independent of the coordinate system used. This is his Theorema Egregium. The Gaussian curvature ${K}$ characterizes the intrinsic geometry of a surface.

### A Trapezoidal Prism on the Serpentine

Walking in Hyde Park recently, I spied what appeared to be a huge red pyramid in the middle of the Serpentine. On closer approach, and with a changing angle of view, it became clear that it was prismatic in shape, composed of numerous barrels in red, blue and purple. Changing perspective on approach to the Mastaba

### The Miraculous Spiral on Booterstown Strand

We all know what a spiral looks like. Or do we? Ask your friends to describe one and they will probably trace out the form of a winding staircase. But that is actually a helix, a curve in three-dimensional space. A spiral is confined to a plane – it is a flat curve. In general terms, a spiral is formed by a point moving around a fixed centre while its distance increases or decreases as it revolves [see TM145, or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. The spiral sandbank on Booterstown strand (satellite image digitally enhanced by Andrew Lynch).

### Optical Refinements at the Parthenon

The Parthenon is a masterpiece of symmetry and proportion. This temple to the Goddess Athena was built with pure white marble quarried at Pentelikon, about 20km from Athens. It was erected without mortar or cement, the stones being carved to great accuracy and locked together by iron clamps. The building and sculptures were completed in just 15 years, between 447 and 432 BC. [TM141 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. ### A Glowing Geometric Proof that Root-2 is Irrational It was a great shock to the Pythagoreans to discover that the diagonal of a unit square could not be expressed as a ratio of whole numbers. This discovery represented a fundamental fracture between the mathematical domains of Arithmetic and Geometry: since the Greeks recognized only whole numbers and ratios of whole numbers, the result meant that there was no number to describe the diagonal of a unit square.

### Marden’s Marvel

Although polynomial equations have been studied for centuries, even millennia, surprising new results continue to emerge. Marden’s Theorem, published in 1945, is one such — delightful — result. Cubic with roots at x=1, x=2 and x=3.

### Geodesics on the Spheroidal Earth-II

Geodesy is the study of the shape and size of the Earth, and of variations in its gravitational field. The Earth was originally believed to be flat, but many clues, such as the manner in which ships appear and disappear at the horizon, and the changed perspective from an elevated vantage point, as well as astronomical phenomena, convinced savants of its spherical shape. In the third century BC, Eratosthenes accurately estimated the circumference of the Earth [TM137 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. Geodesic at bearing of 60 degrees from Singapore. Passes close to Quito, Ecuador. Note that it is not a closed curve: it does not return to Singapore.

### Geodesics on the Spheroidal Earth – I

Both Quito in Ecuador and Singapore are on the Equator. One can fly due eastward from Singapore and reach Quito in due course. However, this is not the shortest route. The equatorial trans-Pacific route from Singapore to Quito is not a geodesic on Earth! Why not? A drastically flattened spheroid. Clearly, the equatorial route between the blue and red points is not the shortest path.

### The Evolute: Envelope of Normals

Every curve in the plane has several other curves associated with it. One of the most interesting and important of these is the evolute. Sin t (blue) and its evolute (red).

### Doughnuts and Tonnetze

The circle of fifths is a remarkably useful diagram for the analysis of music. It shows the twelve notes of the chromatic scale arranged in a circle, with notes that are harmonically related (like C and G) being close together and notes that are discordant (like C and C) more distant from each other. The Tonnetz diagram (note that the arrangement here is inverted relative to that used in the text.  It appears that there is no rigid standard, and several arrangements are in use) [Image from WikimediaCommons].

### Vanishing Hyperballs Spherical ball contained within a cubic region

We all know that the area of a disk — the interior of a circle — is ${\pi r^2}$ where ${r}$ is the radius. Some of us may also remember that the volume of a ball — the interior of a sphere — is ${\frac{4}{3}\pi r^3}$.

### A Symbol for Global Circulation

The recycling symbol consisting of three bent arrows is found on bottles, cartons and packaging of all kinds. It originated in 1970 when the Chicago-based Container Corporation of America (CCA) held a competition for the design of a symbol suitable for printing on cartons, to encourage recycling and re-use of packaging materials. Original (Moebius) and a variation (3-twist) of the universal recycling symbol.

### Malfatti’s Circles

Sometimes the “obvious” answer to a mathematical problem is not the correct one. The case of Malfatti’s circles is an example of this. In an equilateral triangle of unit side length, we must draw three non-overlapping circles such that the total area of the circles is maximal. The solution seems obvious: draw three identical circles, each one tangent to two sides and to the other two circles (above figure, left). This is certainly the most symmetric arrangement possible. However, it turns out not to be the optimal solution. There is another arrangement (above figure, right) for which the three circles have greater total area.

### Drawing Multi-focal Ellipses: The Gardener’s Method

Common-or-Garden Ellipses

In an earlier post we saw how a gardener may set out oval flower-beds using a well-known property of ellipses: the sum of the distances from any point on the ellipse to the two foci is always the same value, ${2a}$, the length of the major axis. The gardener puts down two stakes and loops a piece of rope around them. Using a stick, he pulls the loop taut, marking the points around a curve. This is illustrated here. Gardener’s method of drawing an ellipse [Image Wikimedia].

Continue reading ‘Drawing Multi-focal Ellipses: The Gardener’s Method’

### Locating the HQ with Multi-focal Ellipses

Motivation Ireland has four provinces, the principal city in each being the provincial capital: Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Galway. The map here shows the location of these cities. Now imagine a company that needs to visit and to deliver goods frequently to all four cities. Where might they locate their HQ to minimize transport costs and travel times?

One possibility is to find the location with the smallest distance sum: $\displaystyle d(\mathbf{r}_0) = \sum_{j=1}^{4} |\mathbf{r}_0-\mathbf{p}_j|$

where ${\mathbf{r}_0}$ is the position of the HQ and ${\mathbf{p}_j, j\in\{1,2,3,4\}}$ are the positions of the cities.

### It’s as Easy as Pi Every circle has the property that the distance around it is just over three times the distance across. This has been known since the earliest times  [see TM120 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

The constant ratio of the circumference to the diameter, denoted by the Greek letter pi, is familiar to every school-child. You might expect to find a proof in Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, he could not prove it, and he made no mention of the ratio (see last week’s post).

### Who First Proved that C / D is Constant?

Every circle has the property that the distance around it is just over three times the distance across. This has been “common knowledge” since the earliest times. But mathematicians do not trust common knowledge; they demand proof. Who was first to prove that all circles are similar, in the sense that the ratio of circumference C to diameter D has the same value for all? Slicing a disk to estimate pi (Image Wikimedia).

### Quadrivium: The Noble Fourfold Way

According to Plato, a core of mathematical knowledge – later known as the Quadrivium – was essential for an understanding of the Universe. The curriculum was outlined in Plato’s Republic. The name Quadrivium means four ways, but this term was not used until the time of Boethius in the 6th century AD [see TM119 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. Image from here.

It is said that an inscription over the entrance to Plato’s Academy read “Let None But Geometers Enter Here”. This indicated that the Quadrivium was a prerequisite for the study of philosophy in ancient Greece.

### Hearing Harmony, Seeing Symmetry

Musical notes that are simply related to each other have a pleasing effect when sounded together. Each tone has a characteristic rate of oscillation, or frequency. For example, Middle C on the piano oscillates 264 times per second or has a frequency of 264 Hz (Hertz). If the frequencies of two notes have a ratio of two small whole numbers, the notes are harmonically related and sound pleasant when played together. Beats from two notes close in pitch.

### Torricelli’s Trumpet & the Painter’s Paradox Torricelli’s Trumpet

Evangelista Torricelli, a student of Galileo, is remembered as the inventor of the barometer. He was also a talented mathematician and he discovered the remarkable properties of a simple geometric surface, now often called Torricelli’s Trumpet. It is the surface generated when the curve ${y=1/x}$ for ${x\ge1}$ is rotated in 3-space about the x-axis.

### Voronoi Diagrams: Simple but Powerful

We frequently need to find the nearest hospital, surgery or supermarket. A map divided into cells, each cell covering the region closest to a particular centre, can assist us in our quest. Such a map is called a Voronoi diagram, named for Georgy Voronoi, a mathematician born in Ukraine in 1868. He is remembered today mostly for his diagram, also known as a Voronoi tessellation, decomposition, or partition. [TM108 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. Voronoi diagram drawn using the applet of Paul Chew (see Sources below).

### Unsolved: the Square Peg Problem

The idiom “square peg in a round hole” expresses a mismatch or misfit, often referring to somebody in the wrong profession. It may also indicate a difficult or impossible task but, of course, it is quite simple to fit a square peg in a round hole, hammering it in until the corners are tight against the circular boundary of the hole. Since the peg may be oriented at any angle, there are an infinite number of ways to fit a square within a circle. In contract, for a boomerang-shaped hole, there is just one way to draw a square with its vertices on the curve. 