Happy Holidays from ThinkTank Maths - 2012

18 December 2012

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This year ThinkTank Maths has created a personalised season’s greeting for you inspired by our work on non-linear systems.

All around us are non-linear systems, from the familiar motions of waves lapping on the shore or Sun in the sky, through to the less familiar modern technologies of superconductors and fibre optics.

The animation below is not just a set of random curves, they are paths taken by rays of light moving in a space-time geometry defined by a distribution of matter unique to you.

Your geodesics

Understanding non-linear systems makes possible the exploration of properties of the universe far beyond our everyday experience. The deflection of light paths is due to gravitational fields, known as the gravitational lensing of geodesics, the observation of which in 1919 by Eddington led to the Einsteinian model of gravity replacing the Newtonian model of gravity.

Were space completely flat and empty, the lines would all be straight, therefore curves signal distortions in space. By observing such distortions, it is possible to deduce the distribution of matter in space even when it is not visible, as is the case with dark matter. In modern astrophysics large scale maps of dark matter in the early universe are built up using this method based on deep field observations made by the Hubble Telescope.

Putting in different names will give different dark matter distributions and light paths. Due to the non-linear nature of the system there is wide variety in the outputs, so try not just your own name in the “input box” below, but also those of your family, friends and pets to view the beautifully varied light patterns the system can produce.

Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year from everyone at ThinkTank Maths!


Explore other ThinkTank Maths seasonal greetings.

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