Creating Symmetry: Making Art with Waves
Featuring Frank A. Farris, MIT Ph.D. ’81
Associate Professor of Mathematics, Santa Clara University

Thursday, September 15, 2016  |  11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.
Joshua’s Tavern, 123 Maine Street, Brunswick ME 04011



 In true MIT fashion, let’s begin things with a short Quiz:

Q. What does mathematics have to do with art?  (Hint – the illustration below offers quite a few clues).

Wave Symmetry

A. A whole lot, actually. Mathematics has long been defined as “Art, motivated by Beauty”; moreover, “Maths” (as the Brits call it) and the Arts have been interwoven almost since the beginning of recorded history. Think of Pythagoras, DaVinci, M.C. Escher, or 21st Century architect Frank Gehry, to name four out of thousands of artists through the ages whose work has been informed and inspired by mathematics. In fact, none other than renowned philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell said: “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty”. In our present hyper-digital era, “Maths” is everywhere in the arts - even in unsuspected places like the movies (think CGI-intensive films like “Pete’s Dragon”, or the “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” sagas). And the number of artists who utilize higher mathematics – often without realizing it – is growing every day, as more and more people discover the incredible power of computer-generated imagery.

Frank A. Farris, Ph.D. ’81And with that introduction, your MIT Club of Maine is proud to invite you to join us on September 15th and meet our next guest lecturer, Dr. Frank Farris, of Santa Clara (CA) University. He has invented a brand-new way to create dazzling symmetrical images using waveforms. Below, he describes what he does and what he’ll tell us. (Incidentally, he has promised that he will emphasize the artistic, rather than the computational, parts of the process – so as not to unnerve those of us whose math skills are well, rusty ... Or worse)

“Standing at the always-intriguing intersection of mathematics and art, Frank Farris introduces the mathematics of symmetry and how to create mind-blowing symmetrical images using his new waveform technique. He came up with this concept by rejecting the traditional wisdom that “wallpaper*” patterns must be built up from blocks - a sort of potato-stamp method. Instead, he created patterns from continuous waves. In today’s talk, Dr. Farris will describe the role of complex numbers in his wallpaper method and will touch on other topics in symmetry, from color-reversing patterns to polyhedral and hyperbolic symmetry. He’ll show us how wave functions can draw on photographic images to create beautifully symmetrical patterns. His main focus will be on art, but in the background you’ll be able to glimpse such mathematical topics as group theory, functional analysis, and partial differential equations.” *Some “wallpaper”!

So please join us for a delicious pub luncheon at 12:00 noon on Thursday, 15 September 2016, at Joshua’s Tavern, 123 Maine Street, Brunswick ME. We’ll enjoy good victuals and conversation, and then have a peek “behind the veil” of a fascinating new technique for making fine art. Y’all come!

11:30 a.m. – cash bar and social
12:00 p.m. – Lunch
12:45 p.m. – program starts
02:00 p.m. – program ends

NOTE: As a prelude to our lunch meeting, a gallery show of Dr. Farris’ art will open on September 12, 2016 at Bowdoin College, as part of the Symmetry Works! Initiative, a multi-phase project at the College. Similar exhibitions of his work have also appeared at Cornell University, Carleton College, the University of Minnesota, and Pomona College. He is the author of Creating Symmetry, The Artful Mathematics of Wallpaper Patterns, from Princeton University Press.

Driving Directions to Joshua’s Tavern, 123 Maine Street, Brunswick, ME 04011
Take I-295 to Brunswick, exit onto Pleasant Street (US Rte.1). Continue straight on Pleasant St. to Maine Street; turn left. Joshua’s Tavern is about two blocks down Maine Street, on the right and just before Center Street. Look for the blue awning. Diagonal on-street parking is available in front of the Tavern and in municipal parking lots behind it, accessible via Center Street.


Looking For Alums who were Tutoring Plus Volunteers 

Tutoring Plus of Cambridge,, will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in 2014. In preparation for this very special celebration with a Mardi Gras themed event on Friday February 28th, 2014, the organization is making an effort to contact former volunteer tutors. Tutoring Plus hopes to include as many comments and reminiscences as possible as part of the program for the event, and of course they would be thrilled if you could deliver them in person!

If you were a Tutoring Plus volunteer as an MIT student, please contact Ellen McLaughlin, Executive Director at:, and let her know how she can best reach you to follow up, get your comments and reminiscences and send you an invitation to the event.

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