Daniel F. Daniel, Ph.D
Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science
Professor of English
Integrative Studies Program
Winfield, Kansas 67156 USA
We have just completed the fourth annual Bridges
Conference at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas,
USA. Highlights of the year's conference included the presentation
to the college of a sculpture titled "Genesis" by sculptor
and conferee Brent Collins. The piece stands in front of the
Beech Science Center on the campus. The college owns one other
sculpture titled "Pax Mundi" by Collins. This work
is located in the foyer of the mathematics department.
Collins, an independent artist, and Carlo Sequin, from the computer
department of the University of California at Berkeley, have
collaborated on the mathematical implications of Collins' intuitive
sculptures. Sequin investigates the mathematics of the sculptures
and produces three-dimensional models through a process known
as sterolithography. Sequin exhibited some of these models and
spoke on the second day of the conference.
Ivars Peterson, mathematics columnist for Science News
and author of The Mathematical Tourist and Islands
of Truth, among several other books, presented from a manuscript
he is preparing on mathematics and art. He discussed the mathematical
implications of public art in Toronto, Canada; Washington DC,
USA, and New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. In addition, Peterson has
commented on many of the artists and mathematicians who spoke
at the conference in his column.
Leonard Shlain, a laparoscopic surgeon with the California Pacific
Medical Center in San Francisco, California, presented on his
thesis that public symbol systems challenged a feminine orientation
in prehistoric cultures. This idea is developed fully in his
book The Alphabet versus the Goddess. He is best known
by conferees for his book Art and Physics, demonstrating
parallel and causative developments in the two fields.
For the fourth year, the conference enjoyed the performances
and commentary by Corey Cerovsek. A world class violinist, Cerovsek
worked on doctoral degrees in music and in mathematics at Indiana
University. He had completed coursework for both degrees by the
age of eighteen. He performed after each of the three morning
sessions and during several of the after dinner gatherings. On
the final evening, Corey joined with mathematicians and musicians
to play at the conference finale. He often played and then demonstrated
and commented on the mathematical structure of the music he performed.
Works by Bach and Barber were among the most popular selections.
In addition, Don Crowe from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
presented on "Symmetries of Culture," the title of
his classic text. Craig Kaplan from the University of Washington,
Seattle talked about the construction of "Symmetrohedra."
Javier Barallo from the University of Basque Country in San Sebastian,
Spain talked about "Fractals and Multi-Layered Colorings."
Finally one of the several parents of mathematics and arts conferences,
Nat Friedman from the State University of New York-Albany, spoke
on "Multiple Mobius Band Minimal Surfaces." Friedman
was also a major contributor to the public school workshops which
followed the formal conference.
A dazzling array of smaller group presentations occurred in the
afternoons. From the structure of Native American architectures
to tessellations in physical chemistry and from snake robotic
research to "functional image synthesis," the conference
was lively and varied.
A new feature at the Bridges Conference was an exhibit of mathematical
visual art. The Mathematical Visual Art exhibit was held close
to the main auditorium to allow attendees to visit the exhibit
during breaks. The exhibit coordinator was Dr. Robert Fathauer,
the founder of Tessellations Company in Tempe, Arizona.
This year, the conference presented a large number of geometers
who brought numerous Polyhedra made from various materials in
different sizes as small as a sugar cube and as big as several
feet in diameter. They were located in a large hall, which was
connected to the art exhibit. During the breaks, the audience
had the chance to communicate with the sculptors and to observe
the process of constructing some of these geometric objects.
On Saturday evening, the conferees traveled to the CyberDome
Theater at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas. There they were
presented the public program, "Cracking the Cosmic Code,"
with a discussion of new computer technologies by the staff of
the center. Finally a specially designed display of the theater's
capabilities was presented with a question and answer session
and a brief tour of the facility. The theater itself has technology
matched only by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.
Reza Sarhangi, conference director, noted that this was the most
successful conference to date. Several conferees deemed it one
of the top three in the world. Sarhangi said, "By exploring
the bridges between mathematics and the arts, we hope to make
a difference in how people feel toward math." Next year's
conference will be held at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland
and the year after that—2003— the conference will be
held in Europe. Future plans call for an effort to expand both
the domestic and international number of conferees. In addition,
a journal is being considered which will offer interdisciplinary
subjects based on the "Bridges" concept. The future
looks very bright for an exciting academic approach whose time
has arrived. Reza Sarhangi is to be congratulated for his efforts
in advancing the work of several fields.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel F. Daniel
received his BA in English
Literature from Berea College in Kentucky, his MA in literature
from the University of Chicago, and his PhD in literature and
philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has done
post doctoral work in Semiotics at Kansas University and in Prosaics
at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He currently
serves on the Board of Environmental Ethics at Dade County Community
College in Miami, Florida. He is a professor of English Literature
and a member of the Integrative Studies faculty at Southwestern
College in Winfield, Kansas.
The correct citation for
this article is:
F. Daniel, "Conference Report: Bridges 2001: Mathematical
Connections in Art, Music and Science, Nexus Network Journal,
vol. 3, no. 4 (Autumn 2001), http://www.nexusjournal.com/conf_reps_v3n4-Daniel.html
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