Penn State: The Octatube

At the center of McAllister Building between the HUB and Old Main sits the Octatube. As I understand things the Octatube is a three-dimensional representation of four-dimensional space. For those readers desiring a more detailed description of it I’ll offer the quote below which describes the structure in more detail:

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. The sculpture was designed with a new method which captures four dimensional symmetry better than anything done before.

Adrian Ocneanu, the Penn State professor of mathematics who designed the sculpture.

For those of you really interested in the Octatube click HERE.

McAllister Building is the home to the Department of Mathematics. When I was a student in the early 1970s the place looked quite different. A recent renovation has created an exceptional space for students and faculty. But I digress. There is an agricultural sciences point to this post.

Our students are required to take a variety of mathematics courses and depending on their major or their pursuits of advanced degrees the computational demands rise considerably.

As I work with students and faculty I am constantly amazed at the mathematical sophistication required to pursue the research questions of the day. Computational modeling of root systems utilizing fractal geometry, complex statistical analysis to study and predict disease spread, and much more. That Octatube might look like something from another world but it reflects the continual rise in complexity of scientific pursuits in all disciplines including the agricultural sciences.

Math 61 and 62. The good old days…


Dorothy Durrenberger said…
Very cool. The intersection of art and math. Quite a struggle.
Steve Williams said…
Dorothy: Visualization in science is a growing area of interest. So many things being worked with that cannot easily be seen but require a face in order to communicate ideas. This is one of the more dramatic ones.

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