Newswise — Try the following experiment. Get a tangerine and attempt to take the peel off in one piece. Lay the peel flat and see what you notice about the shape. Repeat several times. This can be done with many types of citrus fruit. Clementines work especially well.
Thus begins Ithaca College mathematician Kelly Delp’s "High Fashion Meets Higher Mathematics." First published in the November 2012 issue of the Mathematical Association of America's Math Horizons, the article provides a careful introduction to the mathematical ideas behind the collaboration between the late topologist William Thurston and fashion designer Dai Fujiwara.
Delp's is among 20 pieces of mathematical exposition included in Princeton University Press's annual compendium The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2013, available now.
Math Horizons, published four times per academic year, is dedicated to making the folklore, characters, and current happenings in mathematical culture interesting and accessible to practitioners, students, educators, and enthusiasts of mathematics. Then co-editors Bruce Torrence (Randolph Macon College) and Steve Abbott (Middlebury College) heard Delp give a keynote at the Bridges art and mathematics conference in Portugal in 2011 and, based on that presentation, tapped her to write for them.
Delp, who had read several accounts of Thurston's collaboration with Fujiwara, brought to her piece insights gleaned through conversations with the topologist before his 2012 death.
As the editor of The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2013, Mircea Pitici, writes in the introduction to the volume, Delp "describes the topological notions that, surprisingly, turned out to be at the confluence of intellectual passions harbored by two people so different in background and living on opposite sides of the world." (It turns out that Thurston and Fujiwara independently presented students with the citrus peeling task Delp relays to readers.)
Delp puts it a bit more simply: "I thought the Thurston-Fujiwara collaboration was a good story, and my goal was simply to share it."
The Mathematical Association of America is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level. Formed in 1915, the association members include university, college, and high school teachers; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in academia, government, business, and industry who are interested in the mathematical sciences.