Title: Unsolved Mathematics at Burning Man
Abstract: Rising 12 feet tall with an 18-foot wingspan, a 2-ton unfolding dodecahedron comes to life at Burning Man, the world’s most influential large-scale sculpture showcase. The artwork is illuminated by 16,000 LEDs, requiring 6500 build-hours and $50,000 in donated funds, with an interior large enough to hold 15 people and fully-lined with massive mirrors.
This sculpture alludes to a tantalizing open problem in mathematics on unfolding polyhedra, tracing its origins back 500 years to the Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer. We discuss the state-of-the-art for this geometric puzzle, consider solutions to some higher-dimensional unfolding analogs, and place this example in a larger quest to bring the edge of mathematical knowledge to the general public.
Prof. Devadoss is the Fletcher Jones Chair of Applied Mathematics and Professor of Computer Science at University of San Diego.