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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Mathematical mystery in art examined, April 3

A mathematical puzzle in the work of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher is the subject of a lecture by mathematician Hendrik Lenstra at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, in McCosh 10.

Lenstra, a professor of mathematics at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, will speak on "Escher and the Droste Effect," which refers to the infinite reproduction of an image within an image.

Lenstra has been fascinated with Escher and the mathematical concepts that many of his lithographs illustrated. In 2000, Lenstra focused on Escher's "Print Gallery," which features a man looking at a distorted picture of seaside buildings drawn on a twisted grid, with a mysterious blank patch in the center.

Using elliptic curve theory to describe the distortion necessary to create the Droste effect in Escher's lithograph, Lenstra arrived at an exact mathematical formulation of the artist's process. With colleague Bart de Smit and students, he was able to fill in the patch and generate a complete, mathematically precise version of the drawing. Lenstra's lecture will describe this two-year project and show his team's computer variations on Escher's idea.

The talk is designated as the Louis Clark Vanuxem lecture and is sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and the University Public Lecture series.

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