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Math art: Local mathematician's photo up for top prize at math conference

Carmel Valley mathematician Yana Mohanty’s photo has been accepted to this year's 2018 Joint Mathematics Meetings Bridges Art Exhibit and is competing for the first prize. The event, held Jan. 16-19 in Baltimore, is considered the world's largest math conference, also featuring the prestigious math art exhibition.

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Yana Mohanty's photo Yana Mohanty

Mohanty, a Ph.D, is a former math instructor and the inventor of Geometiles, an educational tool made up of colorful and versatile interlocking tiles in shapes such as triangles, squares, rectangles and hexagons meant to make math fun and accessible.

Mohanty’s black and white photo, titled "Rhapsody on a Pentagonal Theme, I" was taken with a spherical camera placed inside the last year's winner, a dodecahedral torus (a Platonic solid) constructed by San Diego math teacher David Honda. The photo gives a unique view of its inside that is otherwise inaccessible to the viewer.

“I got a spherical camera for my birthday two years ago, and my photography has never been the same. I found that the spherical camera allows me to build on other artists' work and, simultaneously, create an exercise in visualization for the viewer,” Mohanty said. “Whether I put the camera into a gigantic Platonic solid, a modern bamboo structure, or an intricate origami creation, the result has its own unique aesthetic.”

Mohanty’s image is also featured on the cover of the Joint Mathematics Meetings art catalog.

“The viewer has a choice to simply appreciate the two-dimensional image for its own sake, or try to figure out how it was ‘mapped’ from the original object,” Mohanty said. “Being able to communicate to the viewer on both the artistic and intellectual levels has been very satisfying for me."

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A Geometile agave Courtesy

Since its 2017 launch, Mohanty’s Geometiles have been used in homes, classrooms, and math festivals across the country.

In December 2018, the award-winning math aid was featured at the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City, the country's only museum dedicated to mathematics. At the museum’s MoMath event, more than 120 kids and adults enjoyed exploring with Geometiles at a session led by Dartmouth mathematician and geometer, Bjoern Muetzel. Using Geometiles, geometric LEGOs, and 3D prints, attendees discovered the world of tessellations in the plane, on the sphere and even in the hyperbolic space, Everyone had a chance to construct the five perfect polyhedra, the Platonic solids, and prove that there can only be those five.

Geometiles were also featured at a December student workshop at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, a premier research organization and the only U.S. Department of Energy-funded national lab in the Northeast.

To learn more about Geometiles, visit geometiles.com

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