Rendering Higher Dimensions

Alma Steingart
“Rendering Higher Dimensions”

As computer graphics has advanced over forty years, mathematicians have transformed geometrical abstractions into visualizable entities. On computer screens and in virtual environments, geometers and topologists program four-dimensional surfaces, hyperbolic manifolds, infinite fractals, and topological spaces. Newly rendered mathematical objects challenge their spatial imaginations, and in doing so open up the mathematical world to a host of bodily perceptions building on haptic, kinesthetic, and tactile engagements. Mathematicians seeking to extend their spatial apprehensions do so within existing conceptions of space as an extension of the body and a homogenous and uniform continuum. These technologically imaginative practices demonstrate how technologies augment perception while being folded into embodied understandings of lived space.

About the speaker: Alma Steingart is a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. She is currently pursuing two projects. The first, an examination of mathematical abstractions in mid-century America, places the emergence of a new mathematical epistemology in the cultural and political milieu of the Cold War. The second investigates the introduction of computer graphics into mathematical practice in the 1970s, asking how visualizing abstract mathematical objects transformed the imaginative and phenomenological worlds of geometers and topologists during the last three decades of the twentieth century.