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The Institute for Figuring

What a great name for an educational organization and its web site...The Institute for Figuring. Consider its goal statement: "The Institute’s interests are twofold: the manifestation of figures in the world around us and the figurative technologies that humans have developed through the ages. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding, the tiling patterns of Islamic mosaics and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring."

Though it has no physical location, the Institute is operated by two Co-Directors: Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim. Their "attached" staff help educate the public about "figuring" through lectures, publications and exhibitions.

Via the web site, you can explore:

  • A Hyperbolic Space online exhibit that provides the mathematical explanations as well as the construction of physical models
  • Exhibit on the Mathematics of Paper Folding, which starts with the question: What can one do with a piece of paper?, then explores the rich possiblities a folded square, and leads to the new field of computational origami
  • Business Card Menger Sponge Exhibit, which is a re-creation of the first 3-dimensional fractal that mathematicians became aware of....using 66,048 business cards, 8,000 interlinked sub-cubes, and nine years of effort (its a Level 3 Menger Sponge)
  • Overview of its Lectures which range widely, from titles such as "What is it Like to be a Spider" to "Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane"
  • Publications for purchase