Time Space and Mathematics

From time travel, wormholes and warping space to the mathematics of bubbles. Two-time AMSI Winter School attendee, Ross Ogilvie followed a childhood passion for science fiction into the mind-bending world of differential geometry.

At seven, with no idea what a mathematician was, Ross wanted to be a scientist. Now the avid hiker, rock climber and computer enthusiast is studying the mathematics behind general relativity to help describe spaces and their geometries. He uses bubbles to explain his work, not the familiar glossy spheres from childhood, but harmonic tubes (tubes with as little surface area as possible).

“If you look at the same equations that describe harmonic surfaces in other geometric spaces (not the type of 3D space we live in) then the bubble can assume all sorts of interesting shapes. I’m trying to classify certain types of bubbles and determine which ones can be deformed (continuously bent and stretched) into one another,” Ross explains.

This work forms part of a broader family of equations with a number of scientific applications including particle physics, the study of matter, the nature and make up of particles and the laws that control the physical universe.

For Ross one of the greatest challenges facing mathematicians is the need to communicate and incorporate what they do it into society in a way that is seen as useful and appealing.

“When I tell people what I am studying, it is alarming how often they say ‘oh I hated mathematics at school’. I can’t think of another profession that elicits such a reaction.”

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