Happy Holidays from ThinkTank Maths – 2011

21 December 2011

There are many different images that traditionally appear in holiday greeting cards — snow, winter landscapes, candles, Santa Claus — but they always have one thing in common: they are two-dimensional. This is not surprising: the limitations of paper and computer screens aside, we human beings are most comfortable with two or three dimensions.

Nevertheless, we increasingly have to deal with things that cannot be visualised in such a way: complex data from sensors, control systems and financial transactions, or the additional dimensions that may be needed to explain some of the deepest mysteries of quantum physics. Fortunately, mathematics provides a powerful lens that allows us to catch a glimpse of these strange spaces.

To give you a new perspective of the season and to experience for yourself how counterintuitive it is to try to find structure in complex data, ThinkTank Maths has created an eight-dimensional hypercard.

What you see is an eight-dimensional set of points, with various two-dimensional messages embedded in it. The snowstorm effect corresponds to flying through the dataset and looking at the different projections it creates on a plane as it moves — like multiple shadows cast by the same object as you shine a light on it from several directions. The dataset has been created to ensure that some of these slices correspond to messages like the ones you see.

Using the sliders below the picture allows you to navigate through the data blizzard. We have hidden a secret message — can you find it? Once you succeed, you will be invited to play in the next phase of the game.

Explore other ThinkTank Maths seasonal greetings.

Please note that the quality of the animation will vary depending on your web browser. We recommend that the card is viewed in a recent version of Safari, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. If you are unable to upgrade your browser, you can view a reduced version of the card by clicking here.

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