Sunday, July 15, 2007

New mathematical discovery about the properties of the Moebius strip:
[Mathematician Eugene] Starostin and his colleague Gert van der Heijden, both of University College London, have solved a conundrum that has perplexed mathematicians for more than 75 years -- how to predict what three-dimensional form a Möbius strip will take.

The strip is made from what mathematicians call a 'developable' surface, which means it can be flattened without deforming its shape -- unlike, say, a sphere.

When a developable surface is formed into a Möbius strip, it tries to return to a state of minimum stored elastic energy, like an elastic band springing back after being stretched.

But no one has been able to model what this final form will be. "The first papers looking at this problem were published in 1930," says Starostin. "It seems such a simple question -- children can make these things -- but ask the experts how to model this shape and we've had nothing."