Students discover vast geometry in nature
Written by Kahri Jones
Early Wednesday evening, students entered room 113 for the second installment of Brandywine’s 2015 Speaker Series. Students were not the only ones to occupy all seats; faculty and members of the community were also in attendance.
Jan Reimann, assistant professor of mathematics at Penn State, kicked off the lecture in continuation of the four part series of free events open to the public, and immediately admitted how amazed and delighted at the interest shown reflected by the audience turn out.
He thanked the audience for attending a math lecture on their spare time. Reimann found it remarkable because math is often intimidating and gets a bad rap. He promised he would not ask the audience to solve equations.
“There won’t be any formulas,” Reimann joked. “Everyone can enjoy math, just like everyone can enjoy music or art.”
Instead of asking to solve equations and find derivatives for functions, Reimann peaked the room’s interest by acknowledging the many patterns that appear in nature and architecture.
He explained that patterns are all throughout nature and that you just have to know how to see them. He assured the audience that through curiosity and scientific endeavor, we can learn how observe patterns around us.
Mathematicians seek to understand the world. Through harmony and chaos, the fundamental patterns of geometry, lines and circles are a global regularity. It was important for Reimann to establish a foundation for the audience understanding of how mathematicians have observed the world around us and how perceptions have developed.
Reimann took the audience on a journey through a 3,000-year-old math struggle to gain a better understanding of how we see the world today. After each definitive period of how the world perceived geometry in nature, he gave light to mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot’s discovery of fractal geometry. He noted that Mandelbrot’s findings have even benefited current computer animated graphics.
The assistant professor is a distinguished researcher in the field of science and mathematics. His research is funded by the National Science Foundation, and has brought him to many places throughout the world, including New Zealand, Chicago, California and Penn State.
When Jan Reimann is not in the Penn State classrooms as assistant professor, he is more than likely researching questions on fractal geometry or information theory and the foundations of mathematics and science. His latest research is observing a type of symmetry, self-similarity, found in particular networks such as airline traffic patterns.