IMAGINARY: The beauty of mathematics

| Michaela Nesvarova

'IMAGINARY - through the eyes of mathematics' is an interactive travelling exhibition displaying the beauty of mathematics. It has been visited by more than 2 million people in over 30 countries and it is now coming to the University of Twente, where it will open its doors on the 24th of October, 2016.

The IMAGINARY exhibit was created by the Mathematical Research Institute Oberwolfach in 2008 as a part of the German Year of Mathematics. Its goal is to raise interest in mathematics by showing the artistic side of math. It includes various installations, such as eye-catching visualizations, virtual realities, interactive programs and 3D sculptures. The exhibit has now moved to the Netherlands, travelling from city to city, and one of its stops will be Enschede.

'Mathematics is everywhere and IMAGINARY shows how versatile and beautiful it is,' says Professor Wil Schilders, the Executive Director of Platform Wiskunde Nederland (PWN - Dutch Platform for Mathematics). 'We initiated the idea of bringing the exhibit to the Netherlands together with colleagues from the Mathematical Institute and Freudenthal Institute of Utrecht University. PWN tries to improve the situation of mathematics, showing students what they can do with it. In 2002, there were only 153 students enrolling to study mathematics in the entire Netherlands. Now there are more than 1400 first year math students. Activities such as IMAGINARY contribute to that.'

Visitors don't need knowledge of mathematics

The main idea behind the IMAGINARY exhibition is to use the aesthetic component of mathematics to explain the mathematical backgrounds. Can a person without any knowledge of mathematics still enjoy the exhibit? 'Absolutely,' thinks Professor Schilders. 'We want to raise awareness for mathematics from young age, so the target audience is pupils of secondary schools. However, anyone can have fun at the exhibit. The organizers have put a lot of effort into software, and so the displayed installations are very colorful and realistic. They are basically beautiful art that you could hang in your living room.'

If you decide to visit IMAGINARY, you can also look forward to trying out virtual realities with 3D glasses or interactive programs on touchscreens. For instance, the software SURFER calculates and displays algebraic surfaces in real time, and therefore it allows you to visualize objects by changing equations. 'Anyone can download this program. I remember a twelve year old girl from Germany who used it to make a formula to generate a teapot. In fact, there will be a contest for Dutch pupils to create everyday objects through this program,' mentions Schilders.

IMAGINARY open to public every afternoon

The IMAGINARY exhibition at the UT campus will start on the 24th of October and it will last three whole weeks. It will be located in the Horsttoren in room T1300. During the mornings and early afternoons, the exhibit will be dedicated to high-school students, for whom Pre-U organizes a special program. The students can follow mathematical workshops and they will also be given lectures and tours of the campus. IMAGINARY will be open to the general public every working day from 15:30 until 17:00. Specially trained staff will be present to guide visitors through the exhibition. The exhibit is in Dutch, but English materials are available to those interested. More information about the exhibit and its program can be found here.

Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.