[Image courtesy of Brilliant.org.]
The mobius strip is one of the simplest objects in the world, and yet, the most mind-bending. If you take a strip of paper, add a single twist, and tape the ends together, you transform a two-sided object into a single-sided object. It becomes one continuous surface.
(We’ve discussed the concept briefly in the blog before, but in bagel form.)
But did you know that you can take that idea a step further and end up with this?
[Image courtesy of math.union.edu.]
This is a Klein bottle, an object with one continuous surface. If you trace a path along the surface, you will traverse from the “inside” to the “outside” and back again without breaking stride.
Yes, the word “bottle” is a bit of a misnomer, since this won’t actually hold any liquids; they would just flow along the surface, going “inside” and back “out” without pooling anywhere. This is a result of a mistranslation, as the German word “flache” (surface) was translated as “flasche” (bottle).
This limerick sums up the Klein bottle nicely:
A German topologist named Klein
Thought the Mobius Loop was divine.
Said he, “If you glue
The edges of two,
You get a weird bottle like mine.”
[Image courtesy of Pinterest.]
Although the Klein bottle can’t quite exist as a three-dimensional object — since the object has to pass through itself, which can only happen in four dimensions — we can come close enough to create some impressive approximations, like the glass “Klein bottles” pictured above.
YouTuber and physics student Toby Hendy has even managed to create a technique to knit yourself a Klein bottle hat! Check it out:
Although it’s not an optical illusion, it’s still a visual puzzle for the eyes and the mind, one that has captured the imaginations of mathematicians, artists, and many others throughout the years.
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