If you run into Ed Saff at a cocktail party and ask him what he does for a living, the mathematician is likely to reply that he is working on a "method for creating the perfect poppy-seed bagel." Then he’ll pause and add, "Maybe that’s not the most accurate description, but it’s the most digestible."
More accurately, Saff, who is a mathematics professor at Vanderbilt, has been working with his colleague Associate Professor of Mathematics Doug Hardin to come up with a new and improved way to distribute points uniformly on various types of surfaces. Plotting a large set of equidistant points on a flat surface doesn’t take a mathematician: Any draftsman can do it. Throw in a curve or two, however, and the problem gets much tougher. For complex surfaces like spheres and bagels (which form a shape that mathematicians call a torus), it becomes so hard, in fact, that mathematicians have not found a way to do it with absolute precision.
Recently, Hardin and Saff analyzed a method for generating large numbers of points that are spread with near uniformity over practically any surface of any dimension. Their effort is described in the cover article of the November issue of Notices of the American Mathematical Society.
David F. Salisbury | EurekAlert!
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