This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2006-10-16 at 12:00 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/8707
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Mathematical Art from a Mac

by David Elliott

The cover of the journal Science [1] for 22-Sep-06 features a beautiful artwork titled "Still Life: Five Glass Surfaces on a Tabletop [2]" by graphic artist Luc Benard and mathematician Richard Palais, but the image is neither a photograph nor a Photoshop illustration. Instead, the five objects pictured are famous mathematical surfaces produced by the free Macintosh program 3D-XplorMath [3]. The objects were then exported into Bryce [4], a 3D-rendering program, where Luc Benard gave them a glassy texture and placed them on a virtual glass-covered wooden tabletop.

[image link] [5]

The image is the first-place winner in the illustration category of the 2006 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge [6], jointly sponsored by Science and the National Science Foundation.

Richard Palais, a well-known professor of mathematics at the University of California, Irvine, has worked on the mathematical visualization program 3D-XplorMath (previously known as 3D-Filmstrip) since 1997. Users can view a gallery of interesting mathematical objects in it, plus modify various parameters and viewing options for further experimentation. 3D-XplorMath runs in Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X as a Carbon application and is a free 12.3 MB download [7].

[1]: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/313/5794/1729
[2]: #image_pn5
[3]: http://rsp.math.brandeis.edu/3D-XplorMath/
[4]: http://bryce.daz3d.com/
[5]: http://rsp.math.brandeis.edu/3D-XplorMath/Surface/a/MathCollection.jpg
[6]: http://www.sciencemag.org/sciext/vis2006/
[7]: http://rsp.math.brandeis.edu/3D-XplorMath/TopLevel/download.html