Making with Math

The Joint Math Meeting, a 6,000+ person convention for mathematicians recently held at the Baltimore Convention Center. I wandered around the exhibitor hall, watched a short film on Srinivasa Ramanujan, helped make a mathematical art sculpture for the National Museum of Mathematics in New York, and learned more than I wanted to know about backgammon statistics.

I met Bernat Espigulé, consultant for Wolfram Research, maker of awesome fractals, some of which he 3D printed. He demoed his fractal generation software, and had these sculptures on display

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There were so many more amazing mathematical works like this knitted piece by Gabriele Meyer.


a Knitted Klien bottle by Sara-Marle Belcastro


These origami works by Galen T. Pickett really caught my attention.


And so many more amazing sculptures as well as digitally designed flat prints.

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I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve who was showing James Sawyer’s Six Dimension Designs which were Stained Glass Lamps and artwork.    

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The Ximera Project was a project from a few guys out of Ohio State that made it simple to incorporate math courses online.  He explained to me that they developed a system that let you use a simple programming language called LATEX to connect it to their system to allow anyone to easily create online math courses.  You can see a course they built with this at The code on the left generates the problem on the right.


I learned a bit about Integer sequences and about the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. This intriguing sequence 0, 2, 4, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 20… is a sequence where you have to fit lines of increasing length onto a grid of points, where the lines are not allowed to touch themselves at points nor intersect.  Increasing means that the length of each line must be longer than the last.  It surprised me to learn that they’ve only gone up to 20, which is the most you can fit on a 9×9 grid of points.  The solution for a 10×10 is not yet known.  I’ll certainly be exploring in the future.


By far my favorite booth was a group who makes awesome books called Discovering the Art of Mathematics: Mathematical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts. They had an interactive puzzle which taught you advanced mathematical concepts through doing. The problem was simple. Each paper has a shape, and you can only use the scissors once to cut out the shape, and the scissors have to cut in a single straight line. The first one, an equilateral triangle, was simple. The next was an irregular triangle, and that took some thought. After that I was given an irregular quadrilateral, and I got the hang of it. It turns out that it’s possible to cut out any polyhedron you want from a single sheet of paper, in one single straight-line cut.

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I almost got it…


After the exhibit hall closed there was a reception and screening of the film The Genius of Srinivasa Ramanujan. He was an incredible mathematicial who had almost no formal mathematical training and was able to make great contributions to the field. Ramanujan did great calculations of numbers without computers, discovered many equations some of which still puzzle mathematicians today.

After the film I went over tot he Hilton which is connected to the convention center by a skywalk. The Museum pf Math hosted a workshop where dozens of people gathered to help make a large metal sculpture. Once completed, it will be on display at the museum. The links are all made up of trefoil knots, and were created from consist of bent aluminum, corrugated plastic, brackets, and rivets. The model we were going off of was 3D printed, and each of the white triangles represent one trefoil knot.


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They calculated the scale of the sculpture based on how large they could make it and still fit in the truck for the ride back to New York.

We ended the evening with a game of Go, and several games of Backgammon with two of the world’s top players. The lady in blue is Karen Davis, PhD, a professor at Johns Hopkins. She also happens to be one of the best backgammon players around. Karen told me all about the United States Backgammon Federation, a 700+ member nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the love for the game.

I leaned a lot from her, and several other players about the statistics behind the game, and what to look for. Check out that laser cut acrylic dice tower on this board.    20140116_195212_164 20140116_202108_53720140116_205621_973

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Usually in Baltimore

Digital Fabrication/3d printing specialist, hacker, maker, entrepreneur member of the Baltimore Node hackerspace UMBC 2007 Mechanical Engineering graduate tournament Go and Foosball player 3d modeling since 1997

View more articles by Todd Blatt


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