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Unspooling the Topologist’s Videotape: From Chicken-wires to Film Festivals

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Abstract:

During the past four decades, mathematicians have begun advocating the increasing visualization of mathematics, singling out advances made in computer graphics as the crucial impetus behind this turn. Toward tracking this transformation, this talk examines “Turning The Sphere Inside Out,” a mathematical video produced in the early 1970s which was one of the first attempts to use computer graphics to visualize otherwise hard to depict mathematical objects and theories. “Turning The Sphere Inside Out,” which illustrated a topological problem known as the “sphere eversion,” was the fourth movie by the Topology Films Project (an NSF-funded initiative). In this talk, I claim that the film was not simply a post hoc representation of a theory. Instead, it utilized computational visualization as a potent tool for training mathematicians to apprehend abstract theories. Further, the film was not only representational, but also experimental: it produced new theoretical knowledge about topology. Whereas science studies accounts of representation and visual cultures of science primarily have focused on the natural sciences, a close investigation of computational visualizations of mathematical theories can contribute to recent analyses of how visualization techniques engender new conceptual objects, material practices and experimental enterprises. Since the ontological status of mathematical objects is always up for grabs, mathematicians are vocal about the relative abstractness or concreteness of their theories as they work to construct and maintain clear distinctions between the two. Paying close attention to these sorts of negotiations could further illuminate the role of visualization and modeling as a creative scientific endeavor.
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Association:
Name: 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions
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http://www.4sonline.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p517910_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Steingart, Alma. "Unspooling the Topologist’s Videotape: From Chicken-wires to Film Festivals" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions, Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, OH, Nov 02, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p517910_index.html>

APA Citation:

Steingart, A. , 2011-11-02 "Unspooling the Topologist’s Videotape: From Chicken-wires to Film Festivals" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions, Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, OH <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p517910_index.html

Publication Type: Paper Abstract
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: During the past four decades, mathematicians have begun advocating the increasing visualization of mathematics, singling out advances made in computer graphics as the crucial impetus behind this turn. Toward tracking this transformation, this talk examines “Turning The Sphere Inside Out,” a mathematical video produced in the early 1970s which was one of the first attempts to use computer graphics to visualize otherwise hard to depict mathematical objects and theories. “Turning The Sphere Inside Out,” which illustrated a topological problem known as the “sphere eversion,” was the fourth movie by the Topology Films Project (an NSF-funded initiative). In this talk, I claim that the film was not simply a post hoc representation of a theory. Instead, it utilized computational visualization as a potent tool for training mathematicians to apprehend abstract theories. Further, the film was not only representational, but also experimental: it produced new theoretical knowledge about topology. Whereas science studies accounts of representation and visual cultures of science primarily have focused on the natural sciences, a close investigation of computational visualizations of mathematical theories can contribute to recent analyses of how visualization techniques engender new conceptual objects, material practices and experimental enterprises. Since the ontological status of mathematical objects is always up for grabs, mathematicians are vocal about the relative abstractness or concreteness of their theories as they work to construct and maintain clear distinctions between the two. Paying close attention to these sorts of negotiations could further illuminate the role of visualization and modeling as a creative scientific endeavor.


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