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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Class Act

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 7:18 AM

Update of Nov. 30, 2014 —

For further information on the geometry in
the remarks by Eberhart below, see
pp. 16-17 of A Geometrical Picture Book ,
by Burkard Polster (Springer, 1998). Polster
cites a different article by Lemay.

A search for background to the exercise in the previous post
yields a passage from the late Stephen Eberhart:

The first three primes p = 2, 3, and 5 therefore yield finite projective planes with 7, 13, and 31 points and lines, respectively. But these are just the numbers of symmetry axes of the five regular solids, as described in Plato's Timaeus : The tetrahedron has 4 pairs of face planes and comer points + 3 pairs of opposite edges, totalling 7 axes; the cube has 3 pairs of faces + 6 pairs of edges + 4 pairs of comers, totalling 13 axes (the octahedron simply interchanges the roles of faces and comers); and the pentagon dodecahedron has 6 pairs of faces + 15 pairs of edges + 10 pairs of comers, totalling 31 axes (the icosahedron again interchanging roles of faces and comers). This is such a suggestive result, one would expect to find it dealt with in most texts on related subjects; instead, while "well known to those who well know such things" (as Richard Guy likes to quip), it is scarcely to be found in the formal literature [9]. The reason for the common numbers, it turns out, is that the groups of symmetry motions of the regular solids are subgroups of the groups of collineations of the respective finite planes, a face axis being different from an edge axis of a regular solid but all points of a projective plane being alike, so the latter has more symmetries than the former.

[9] I am aware only of a series of in-house publications by Fernand Lemay of the Laboratoire de Didactique, Faculté des Sciences de I 'Éducation, Univ. Laval, Québec, in particular those collectively titled Genèse de la géométrie  I-X.

— Stephen Eberhart, Dept. of Mathematics,
California State University, Northridge, 
"Pythagorean and Platonic Bridges between
Geometry and Algebra," in BRIDGES: Mathematical
Connections in Art, Music, and Science 
, 1998,
archive.bridgesmathart.org/1998/bridges1998-121.pdf

Eberhart died of bone cancer in 2003. A memorial by his
high school class includes an Aug. 7, 2003, transcribed
letter from Eberhart to a classmate that ends…


… I earned MA’s in math (UW, Seattle) and history (UM, Missoula) where a math/history PhD program had been announced but canceled.  So 1984 to 2002 I taught math (esp. non-Euclidean geometry) at C.S.U. Northridge.  It’s been a rich life.  I’m grateful. 
 
Steve
 

See also another informative BRIDGES paper by Eberhart
on mathematics and the seven traditional liberal arts.

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