Patterns Patterns Everywhere

04 May 2017

On Tuesday 11 April Professor Martin Golubitsky of Ohio State University — who has been a long-term visitor to the Department of Mathematics since February 2017 — gave a public lecture entitled 'Patterns, patterns everywhere'. He pointed out that regular patterns appear all around us: from vast geological formations to ripples in a vibrating coffee cup, from gaits of horses to the lapping tongues of flames. And patterns were quite literally all around the 100-strong audience in the Fale Pasifika with its beautiful examples of the cultural importance of patterns in the Pacific region.

Professor Golubitsky showed some fascinating examples of stationery and even moving patterns, and then explained how mathematical symmetry enters the picture as a way of explaining which pattern may arise. The important message is that understanding the symmetries already gives crucial insight without the need to study the details of the system whose patterns one is interested in. As was demonstrated in the lecture, this fundamental idea can even be used to produce stunning images of chaotic attractors with prespecified symmetries.