Campus lecture offers insight on platonic solids

“Exceptional platonic solids are beautiful three dimensional figures,” explained St. Mary’s College Professor Andrew Connor on Wednesday.

“The reason they have so much symmetry, [is because] they are made of regular polygons. Meaning the edges of the faces all have equal length and the angles are all the same. Faces are all congruent to one another,” said Connor during his lecture at Sonoma State University.

There are eleven more academic talks scheduled, covering various mathematical topics. This talk and many others are open to the public, in Darwin 103, and are a part of the mathematics colloquium taking place Wednesdays at 4 p.m.

What’s especially significant about these shapes is that there are only five platonic solids which meet this criteria: the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron.

Platonic solids are a mathematical beauty and have been studied as far back as Plato's time.

“I already knew that there were only five [platonic solids], but then [Connor], showing and proving why there are only five, I thought was an unexpected result that came from [the lecture],” said Sonoma State senior Tyler Hayes, a mathematics major.

Hayes is transferring to California State University, Los Angeles in the fall with a double major in pure mathematics and secondary teaching. His goal after his masters, is to obtain his PH.D at CSULA and become a university professor.

“There’s always been a piece of me that enjoys the flow of logic that comes from mathematics. As long as you are careful with all your computations,[and] as long as you are consistent with your assumptions in mathematics you always get the same answer. Which I think is really cool,” Hayes said.

Margot Gerritsen, professor in energy resources and engineering, and director of the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering, is scheduled to speak March 29. Her talk called “Mathematics Gives You Wings” is focused on linear algebra.

Gerritsen pours passion into her talks and explains how linear algebra is fundamental to science and engineering.

All talks hold significance, although Gerritsen has done a TEDxStanford conference called “The beauty I see in algebra.” She truly believes that matrices are everywhere and her specialty is to find those matrices in movement. She loves to study anything that moves, like ocean waves or even a heartbeat.

Mathematics Professor and Board of Trustees Chair Ben Ford has organized the calendar agenda for the Math Colloquium and explains the benefits of the Wednesday lectures. “[The lectures] help students get exposed to all different possible directions that you can go in mathematics and statistics,” said Ben Ford, report of the chair of the faculty and mathematics professor. “We get speakers from mathematics, applied mathematics [and] it helps students see the huge breadth of field.”

“The mathematics that comes from studying the symmetry is important in a number of fields like crystallography. It is important when thinking about symmetry when classifying crystal structures,” said Ford regarding platonic solids in today’s technology.

“There is a whole field of mathematics from a colloquia talk that I was completely unaware of, like medical statistics. My friend and I were really interested in it and we didn’t even know that was a thing,” Hayes said.

Conner received his undergraduate in engineering and applied science and after realizing his passion, obtained his Ph.D. in Mathematics at University of Oregon. Conner is proof that there are opportunities beyond undergraduate programs, if one desires to pursue them.

Hayes admits that he wouldn’t use platonic solids in his everyday life, he says it may be useful knowledge in a graduate class but instead he may use it for a cool party trick.