Unveiling of first good rendering of a 4-dimensional object set for 21 October

10/17/05

The Penn State Department of Mathematics will host an open house of its extensively renovated McAllister Building, featuring a dedication ceremony for a unique sculpture with deep mathematical significance on 21 October 2005 at the Penn State University Park campus. The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. with a ceremony to dedicate the "Octacube" sculpture in the first-floor atrium of McAllister Building, followed by an opportunity for participants to explore the renovated building until 5:00 p.m. No good rendering of any 4-dimensional object existed anywhere in the world before the Octacube, either in solid or virtual form, according to Adrian Ocneanu, the Penn State professor of mathematicians who designed the sculpture.

In addition to the events on 21 October, the mathematics department will host a mathematical talk on 20 October at 4:00 p.m. and a talk for the general public on 26 October at 6:00 p.m. All three events will take place in the atrium near the sculpture, will feature 4-dimensional movies, and will be open to the public at no charge.

The sculpture is a gift from Jill Grashof Anderson, a mathematics alumna of Penn State as a memorial for her husband, Kermit C. Anderson, also a Penn State mathematics graduate, who was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on 11 September 2001. The dedication ceremony for the sculpture will include an explanation of its mathematical meaning by its designer, Adrian Ocneanu, professor of mathematics. The stainless-steel Octacube is a striking object of visual art and also a mental portal to the fourth dimension, a teaching tool, and a research object bringing together many branches of mathematics and physics connected to the structure of symmetry.

The sculpture, which measures about six feet in every direction, presents the three-dimensional "shadow" of a four-dimensional solid object. "Although mathematicians can work with a fourth dimension abstractly by adding a fourth coordinate to the three that we use to describe a point in space, a fourth spatial dimension is difficult to visualize," Ocneanu explains. "The sculpture was designed with a new method which captures four dimensional symmetry better than anything done before."

The Octacube was produced by the staff of the Engineering Services Shop, managed by Jerry Anderson. "It is rare that we get a chance to produce something so extraordinary for people to enjoy," Jerry Anderson says. "The Octacube demonstrates the high level of skill and craftsmanship of the Penn State people who transformed it from a design to an object, including Janet Page, James Kustenborder, Ronald Weaver, Brian Bennett, Dennis Praskovich, Thomas Coakley, Thomas Rimmey and Lee Brooks."

Jill Grashof Anderson says she hopes the sculpture will encourage students, faculty, administrators, alumnae, and friends to ponder and appreciate the world of mathematics. "I also hope that all who view the sculpture will begin to grasp the sobering fact that everyone is vulnerable to something terrible happening to them and that we all must learn to live one day at a time, making the very best of what has been given to us." She adds, "It would be great if everyone who views the Octacube walks away with the feeling that being kind to others is a good way to live."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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