Mathematics Awareness Week 1995

Press Release

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For Immediate Release
Date Mailed: March 22, 1995

(Washington, DC) . . . . . Mathematics & Symmetry is the theme of Mathematics Awareness Week 1995 which will be observed nationwide from April 23 - 29. Symmetry is a mathematical concept used for analysis, classification, making predictions through modeling, and for understanding the structures of all kinds of objects -- both in mathematics and in the physical world.

Symmetry is all around us. It is apparent in everyday objects --- buildings, floor and wall tiles, gears, and even in automobile hub-caps. Symmetry is visible in many natural forms --- in the bilateral symmetry of the human form, in the rotational and kaleidoscopic symmetry of blossoms, in the sinuous spiral symmetry of vines and shells, and in the translation symmetry of honeycombs and fish scales.

Mathematicians refer to symmetry as "invariance under transformation." Symmetry is a central theme of mathematics because transformations are a primary object of mathematical study.

Symmetry is a reason why many things work. For example, gears, wheels and turbines function because of the symmetrical nature of their moving parts. Many manufactured forms are made up of identical parts, allowing for efficiency in production, and are often put together in symmetric ways.

Symmetry is central to crystallography, the cataloguing of the three-dimensional configurations into which the atoms of many substances arrange themselves. The symmetries of crystals are described in terms of the rotations and reflections which leave a particular structure invariant, either for aesthetic or structural reasons.

Mathematics & Symmetry is visually depicted on the 1995 Mathematics Awareness Week colored poster and postcards in striking images of symmetric icons and quilt patterns created for Mathematics Awareness Week 1995 by Marty Golubitsky and Mike Field, two mathematicians at the University of Houston.

For the first time, this year's Mathematics Awareness Week materials, including visuals, are available electronically. There is even an electronic discussion area where individuals can share information about their various activities for the week.

Celebrations of Mathematics Awareness Week will feature proclamations from many of the nation's governors, legislators, and mayors. Colleges and universities across the country have planned competitions, exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and other events to mark the week. In New Jersey alone, for example, 200 activities are planned for April as part of that state's marking of Mathematics Awareness Week.

Mathematics Awareness Week is coordinated by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics which represents three national mathematics organizations, the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Additional financial support is provided by the U.S. Army Research Office; Oxford University Press, with offices in New York and Oxford, UK; and Springer-Verlag, publishers of Textbooks in Mathematical Sciences (TIMS), a new undergraduate text series.

Kathleen Holmay

Back to Math Awareness Week 1995

Mathematics Awareness Month is sponsored each year by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics to recognize the importance of mathematics through written materials and an accompanying poster that highlight mathematical developments and applications in a particular area.