A pair-of-pants is a surface that looks exactly like a pair-of-pants that you wear. Technically, it is topologically equivalent to a sphere which has been punctured three times, or a disk which had been punctured twice (shown below). It is an orientable surface of genus two having three boundary components. They are useful objects in topology, in that they give a different decomposition of surfaces. We usually think of closed connected surfaces as spheres, where either handles or cross-caps have been added. More formally, recall the Classification of Surfaces Theorem: Any closed, connected surface is topologically equivalent to a sphere, a connected sum of tori, or a connected sum of projective planes.
It turns out that we can cut up just about any orientable closed surface into pairs of pants with simple closed curves. This is called a pants decomposition of a surface. Pants decompositions are not unique. For example, we can cut up a genus 2 surface (a sphere with two handles) in two different ways:
What happens in general? Suppose our surface has \(g\) handles, where \(g\geq 2\). Then we can slice the surface with \( 3g-3\) “vertical” simple closed curves, which decomposes the surface into \(2g-2\) pairs of pants. The genus 3 case is shown below and illustrates the general idea.
Since a pair-of-pants is a subset of a thrice punctured sphere, it also admits a hyperbolic structure. Alternatively, simply construct a hyperbolic pair-of-pants by gluing together two right angled hexagons (hyperbolic) along alternate edges. More generally, it is relatively straightforward to show that there exists a unique hyperbolic pair of pants with cuff lengths \((l_1,l_2,l_3)\) , for any \(l_1,l_2,l_3>0\). Here, cuff lengths refers to the lengths of the three boundary components. Even more can be said about hyperbolic surfaces and pants decompositions, but this will lead us too far astray.
In December, I was contacted by Professor Ricardo Nemirovsky from San Diego State University to design 3D printable surfaces for the Taping Shape* exhibit at the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego, California. The exhibit runs from January 30 through June 12, 2016.
The exhibit contains a structure made out of packing tape with
three interconnected regions: a torus, a topological
equivalent to Schwarz P surface, and a pair-of-pants
surface with the legs twisted. The structure is large enough for visitors to walk and crawl through. There are three “work tables” (one for each region), with materials, suggested activities, poster displays, etc. The 3D printed models will be a part of the work table and displays.
Ricardo requested I make pair-of-pants surfaces with caps that can be joined together in different ways, Schwarz P surfaces that can be joined together, and also a frame that allows the Schwarz P surface to be created as a soap film spanning the frame. The challenge was on!
In the following blog posts, I’ll explain a bit about the math behind the surfaces, and how we figured out how to build and print them.
*The Taping shape exhibit is part of the InforMath project funded by the National Science Foundation (DRL-1323587). (The InforMath Project is a partnership between San Diego State University and several museums at the Balboa Park, including the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center .)
The holiday’s are fast approaching, and I had a flash back to the movie Love Actually and the song “Love is all around you”. I feel the need to change the first word here (Math = Love?) , since many Christmas decorations show a remarkable amount of geometry to them.
I went to this wonderful tree lighting ceremony and cookie party at W&L and was completely distracted by both the amount of sugar available (cookies, cupcakes, brittle, candy, cider, hot chocolate, …) and the fabulous decorations. These included the stellated star (above) and the fabulous minimal surfaces created by stretching fabric between a table top and it’s legs. The red lighting just added extra pizzazz.
I’ve also seen a lot of knots out there in the real world. My favorite is this folded trefoil knot on the back of a truck. Exactly the kinds of knots I’ve been researching with my undergraduate students.
One of my friends I knit with has the best earrings – nice and knotty! Fun way to be festive at this time of year. (She’s a graphic designer, so was greatly amused at my need to take a picture of her earrings!) I believe that this earring is a true lover’s knot.
I had the very great privilege of being a co-organizer of a workshop held at the Simon’s Center for Geometry and Physics and NYU Stony Brook. This was the workshop on the Symplectic and Algebraic Geometry in the Statistical Physics of Polymers. It was my first time to this campus, and I had a blast with both the math at the workshop AND all the visualization of math in the environment.
My first hint that things were going to be special, was the fantastic Umbilic Torus sculpture found at the end of an avenue of trees between the center and the math department.
The sculpture is by Dr Helamun Ferguson, click here to find a photo gallery showing the design and construction of the piece.
The sculpture consists of a space filling curve all over the surface of the sculpture. The sharp curve along the edges is a trefoil knot, winding three times around the central hole (the longitude on the torus) and twice around the sculpture the other way (the meridian on the torus).
The base of the sculpture is a large round granite disk with a 3 sided deltoid mirroring the 3-fold symmetry of the sculpture overhead. The base had to be left to settle for a year, and was greatly loved by the local skate-boarders!
The Simon’s Center itself is in a wonderful airy building, with mathematical themes blended seamlessly in the design. I kept finding treasures as the workshop went on. The most obvious, is the sandstone wall behind the stair case leading up to the cafe on the second floor. It is covered with small math motifs from knots, to physics, to finding the square root of 2.
Even the screens on the side of the first floor lounge are mathematical, with different tilings of the plane illustrated. Just love the artistry of the designs in them.