Picture this: ICERM program explores imagery of mathematics

“Illustrating Mathematics,” a program happening throughout the semester at Brown’s national mathematics institute, aims to aid research and public engagement with math through visual representation.

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The image, title Iris Spirals, is part of a collection of images generated using the Fibonacci Sequence. Credit: Frank Farris

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An image generated from a Cannon-Thurston map, a type of hyperbolic surface. Credit: David Bachman, Saul Schleimer, Henry Segerman

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An image based on a Seifert Surface, a surface whose boundary is given by a knot or a link. Credit: Saul Schleimer and Henry Segerman

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A mathematically generated 3D print, rendered in sintered steel/bronze. Credit: Bathsheba Grossman

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Tiling of hyperbolic space, made with geodesic cylinders. Credit: Sabetta Matsumoto and Henry Segerman

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – Throughout the fall semester at ICERM, Brown University’s National Science Foundation mathematics institute, researchers and artists from across the world are coming together to bring mathematics to life in striking imagery.

The program, titled “Illustrating Mathematics,” has two complementary aims, says Brenden Hassett, a mathematics professor at Brown and ICERM’s director: to identify new ways to engage members of the broader community in math, and to encourage mathematicians to use modern computer visualization in their research.

“Images, animations and objects lead to mathematical discovery, allowing people to see patterns that are not apparent from a stream of numbers or equations,” Hassett said. “Nowadays, computer software, 3D printers and other computer-controlled tools are used to produce these. We hope to educate mathematicians across different specialties to use these to support their research, as well as to communicate mathematical concepts to students and the public.”

Over the course of the semester, mathematicians, artists, sculptors and makers will participate in a series of lectures, presentations and workshops. Some will delve deeply into challenging mathematical concepts, which Hassett hopes will assist scholars in developing new understanding of hard-to-imagine mathematics. Other events are aimed at the community, in the hopes of giving people a new appreciation of math-inspired images.

“We have participants working in industries ranging from animation to textile design, with academic interests including material science, ceramics, architecture and the visual arts,” Hassett said. “We hope to show people that math is everywhere and intertwined with many branches of creative work.”

Among the public-facing events is an open house on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. at ICERM’s space at

121 South Main St. in Providence. Held in conjunction with the WaterFire Big Bang Science Fair

/Public Release. View in full here.