I received some very cool gifts this Christmas.
My lovely wife got me Death From The Skies, the new book by the Bad Astronomer Phil Plait. And my friend Shannon got me Of Pandas and People, the Intelligent Design textbook at the centre of the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial.
I’ll be providing reviews of these separately once I’ve finished them. A preview: I liked one more than the other. I’ll let you guess which.
The prize for nerdiest gift goes to my sister, who made a donation to the charity Common Hope, and thereby got the right to name a mathematical symmetry group. Which she named after me.
A symmetry group is the collection of operations on a shape that preserve its symmetry: like reflections and rotations.
For example a square has symmetry under 90° rotation, and vertical and horizontal reflection:
Of course once you get beyond simple geometric shapes like squares and triangles it all starts getting a bit complicated. And all the simple ones have names already.
So my symmetry group corresponds to the elliptic curve described by the formula:
y2 + 769xy + 773y = x3 + 787x .
It’s called the Matthew Kippen Group.
I was toying with the idea of putting a picture of the curve here, but it’s tricky rendering a 2-dimensional picture of a 3-dimensional object embedded in a 4-dimensional space.
If anyone out there does know how to do this, please let me know. I'd be most interested.
Until then, you’ll just have to use your imagination. I’m sure it’s very pretty.