Arguably mathematicians are the scientific all-rounders, applying their
skills to a range of subjects from chemistry and medicine to engineering and
economics. In some cases these skills extend even further. Professor Alain
Goriely, Statutory Professor of Mathematical Modelling in Oxford, has just won
second prize in the Weird and Wonderful section of the 2014
National Science Photography Competition, organised by the Engineering and
Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for his photograph of a gömböc. A gömböc is a convex three-dimensional homogeneous body
which, when resting on a flat surface, has just one stable and one unstable point
Its existence was conjectured by Russian mathematician Vladimir
1995 and proven in 2006 by Hungarian scientists Gábor Domokos and Péter Várkonyi.
A limited edition Gömböc, labelled #2013, the year of the
opening of the Andrew Wiles Building in Oxford, was purchased with generous
support from Otto Albrecht and Tim and Leona Wong and can be found on
display in the building. The Gömböc in Alain's photograph, a gift
from Otto Albrecht, is made of plexiglass which generates intricate and intriguing light patterns. The mathematics of the Gömböc can be seen in the background.