Spotlight on the Dynamical Systems Community

March 1, 2005


Hinke Osinga and Bernd Krauskopf with their crocheted Lorenz manifold. Since its first public appearance---in a minisymposium at the sixth SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems---the manifold, and its creators, have come in for widespread attention from the media.

In Santiago, Chile, for the sixth Americas Conference on Differential Equations and Nonlinear Analysis (January 10-21), SIAM president Martin Golubitsky took time out for an interview with Hinke Osinga, section editor-in-chief of DSWeb Magazine. When the widely ranging conversation inevitably turned to SIAM Journal on Applied Dynamical Systems---of which Golubitsky is the founding editor-in-chief---he recalled the journal's startup, and the decision to make it electronic only. "It just had to be an electronic journal," he said; "how else can you have free color and animations!"

The emphasis on visualization could hardly have had a more receptive listener: Osinga has been known since May 2003, in unexpectedly wide circles, for the unusual and strikingly beautiful illustration she brought to her talk at the sixth SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems. In the mini-
symposium talk, "Manifolds in the Lorenz System," she presented her work with Bernd Krauskopf on computing invariant manifolds. The now-famous illustration was a crocheted version of the Lorenz manifold produced by the algorithm described in the talk.

"Famous" is not an exaggeration: As word about the crocheted manifold got out, helped along by a cover article in The Mathematical Intelligencer (Fall 2004), the mainstream media showed remarkable enthusiasm for the story. Osinga (a crocheter from the age of 7) and Krauskopf, both of the University of Bristol, were featured with their crocheted creation in several newspapers; they were also in-terviewed on radio, and even appeared on UK and Russian national television news. The highlight was their appearance on Channel 4 News, December 17, 2004, in a live interview of almost four minutes with presenter Jon Snow. ("So," he quipped, "where's the butterfly?")

In their article, Osinga and Krauskopf published the crochet and mounting instructions that would allow anyone adept enough with a crochet hook and persistent enough to complete the 25,511 stitches to duplicate their feat.

Curious about the mathematics involved, and the extent of the connection between the mathematics and the crocheted piece, SIAM News got in touch with Osinga and soon received generous replies to a set of questions (see From Computed to Crocheted Mesh).

Meanwhile, Osinga was actively working on other projects for the dynamical systems community, including the article about Golubitsky. Posted to DSWeb Magazine (January 2005), the article is reproduced almost in its entirety in this issue of SIAM News. Osinga is also the editor-in-chief of DSWeb, the portal of the SIAM Activity Group on Dynamical Systems and the home of the Magazine; readers are encouraged to take a look: http://www.dynamicalsystems.org/.

A final note: As SIAM president, in addition to the activities he mentioned to Osinga, Golubitsky intends to communicate with the SIAM membership via an occasional column in SIAM News. In fact, he had planned to begin with this issue. A phone call to remind him of the deadline found him hard at work with his long-time collaborator Ian Stewart, in town (Houston) to attend "Coupled 60," a conference on the dynamics, classification, and applications of coupled systems held as part of the University of Houston dynamics group's Focused Research Grant from the National Science Foundation.

The name "Coupled 60," Golubitsky explained, "arose when we looked over the list of conference participants and realized that five of us would be turning 60 this year." In addition to Golubitsky and Stewart, the group includes John Guckenheimer (SIAM president in 1997- 98), Philip Holmes, and Michael Field. Over the years, the five have had substantial interaction in the course of separate, but intertwined research careers. All, Golubitsky said, began in catastrophe theory (singularity theory), and coupled systems that have structure are a current theme for all.


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