A paper by University of Richmond professors Fiona Ross and William T. Ross has been selected for inclusion in “The Best Writing on Mathematics 2013,” published by Princeton University Press. The anthology seeks to bring together “the year’s finest mathematics writing from around the world.”
The Ross’s paper, “The Jordan Curve Theorem is Non-Trivial,” was first published in the “Journal of Mathematics and the Arts.” In it, said Mircea Pitici, the anthology’s editor, the Rosses present a brief history of the theorem, “hint at some tricky cases that defy the simplistic intuition behind it, and, most remarkably, illustrate the nonobvious character of the theorem with arresting drawings penned by Fiona Ross,” adjunct professor of art at the university. William T. Ross is a professor of mathematics. The two are husband and wife.
The paper shows through words and art that “Jordan curves are not the cold, abstract, boring objects we might think they are,” the Rosses wrote. “Instead, they can tell a story.”
William Ross said the paper was the first such collaboration between the two professors. “The idea came from me looking at some of Fiona’s latest drawings, which were one-line drawings with beautiful but quite complicated structures.” He was teaching the Jordan Curve Theorem at the time and was looking for a way of making it easier to prove to his students. “Fiona’s drawings gave the inspiration for how to better explain this.”
Pitici, the editor, said the selections in the book demonstrate that mathematicians “create new things and discover novel ways of looking at old things; they believe things hard to believe, and question what seems to be obvious.”
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