Boy's surface

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In geometry, Boy's surface is an immersion of the real projective plane in 3-dimensional space found by Werner Boy in 1901 (he discovered it on assignment from David Hilbert to prove that the projective plane could not be immersed in 3-space). Unlike the Roman surface and the cross-cap, it has no singularities (i.e. pinch-points), but it does self-intersect.

To make a Boy's surface:

Boy's surface is discussed (and illustrated) in Jean-Pierre Petit's Le Topologicon[1].

Boy's surface was first parametrized explicitly by Bernard Morin in 1978. See below for another parametrization, discovered by Rob Kusner and Robert Bryant.


Symmetry of the Boy's surface

Boy's surface has 3-fold symmetry. This means that it has an axis of discrete rotational symmetry: any 120° turn about this axis will leave the surface looking exactly the same. The Boy's surface can be cut into three mutually congruent pieces. (proof)

Model at Oberwolfach

The Mathematical Research Institute of Oberwolfach has a large model of a Boy's surface outside the entrance, constructed and donated by Mercedes-Benz in January 1991. This model has 3-fold rotational symmetry and minimizes the Willmore energy of the surface. It consists of steel strips which represent the image of a polar coordinate grid under a parameterization given by Robert Bryant and Rob Kusner. The meridians (rays) become ordinary Möbius strips, i.e. twisted by 180 degrees. All but one of the strips corresponding to circles of latitude (radial circles around the origin) are untwisted, while the one corresponding to the boundary of the unit circle is a Möbius strip twisted by three times 180 degrees — as is the emblem of the institute (Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach 2008).

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