The mathematics of sidewalk illusions

Brilliant, the best explaination of this I’ve ever seen.

“Have you ever come across an oddly stretched image on the sidewalk, only to find that it looks remarkably realistic if you stand in exactly the right spot? These sidewalk illusions employ a technique called anamorphosis — a special case of perspective art where artists represent 3D views on 2D surfaces. So how is it done? Fumiko Futamura traces the history and mathematics of perspective.”

[via The Kid Should See This]

Andrew Wiles and Fermat’s Last Theorem

I saw this headline this morning:

Professor Who Solved Fermat’s Last Theorem Wins Math’s Abel Prize

I’m not a mathematician (more of a mathephobe) but this is a fascinating story and years ago PBS’s Nova repackaged a BBC documentary on Andrew Wiles in a piece called “The Proof” which I have on VHS tape but which, no doubt because of licensing issues with BBS, never got transferred to DVD and sold through the PBS web site.

The entire video is embedded below and it’s simply amazing, watch it even if you’re not into mathematics, it’s just a fantastic story with great characters.

I love the interview with the Japanese mathematician Goro Shimura where he describes his late friend and partner, Yutaka Taniyama (around 11:15 in):

“Taniyama was not a very careful person as a mathematician. He made a lot of mistakes, but… he made mistakes in a good direction, so eventually he got right answers. I tried to imitate him but I found out it is very difficult to make good mistakes.”

This video is a treasure and I hope Nova and BBC make it available as a remastered DVD and/or a downloadable video.