International IMAGINARY exhibition shows the beauty of mathematics

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An international travelling exhibition currently on display at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University has attracted visitors to experience the beauty and culture of mathematics.

The IMAGINARY exhibition is a non-commercial travelling exhibition that presents visualisations, installations, virtual worlds, and 3D objects along with their theoretical background in algebraic geometry, singularity theory and differential geometry. It aims to simplify sophisticated mathematical concepts in a visitor-friendly manner.


The exhibition, which is on display at XJTLU until Sunday 22 May, was started in 2008 by the Mathematical Research Institute of Oberwolfach to celebrate the Year of Mathematics in Germany. It has now expanded into an international project that has organised more than 130 exhibitions across 30 countries, with more than one million visitors.

Dr Gang Liu, acting head of Mathematics Sciences and the main organiser of the exhibition at XJTLU, said that he hoped to change people’s impression that maths is “precise and strict”.

“Through the IMAGINARY exhibition, we hope to subvert the dull image of maths, and convey the message that it can be visualised and entertaining. We also hope to activate visitors’ motivation to learn maths through these colorful, lively and interactive activities,” he said.

At the exhibition opening on Saturday 14 May, the newly developed Lubuntu platform, an integration of software, animations and films that presents a wide range of practical applications in modern mathematics, was available for visitors to try on a 74-inch touch screen.

Additionally, interesting geometric shapes and 3D objects gave visitors an understanding of algebraic geometry, singularity theory and differential geometry, while academic staff from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at XJTLU were also present explaining the graphics and objects with relevant mathematical background knowledge.


An interactive mathematics and arts design workshop was also hosted by international architecture and mathematics expert Professor Rinus Roelofs, with support from Helen Yu, the main organiser of the 2015 IMAGINARY exhibition in Taiwan. During the workshop, they introduced the audience to 2D and 3D paper models and demonstrated how maths and art can be combined. They also guided the audience through making paper mathematical models.

Year One student Yue Wu, from International Business School Suzhou at XJTLU, volunteered for the exhibition and participated in the paper model making. She said: “These paper models combined the beauty of maths and art and I found that the seemingly boring maths models have practical value that is closely related to life.”


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