Teachers looking for ways to convince their students that maths isn't a boring slog have a convincing new set of visuals: GIF makers are using mathematics to craft hypnotic moving images. Even outside a classroom, they're fascinating.
Physics student David Whyte posts his geometric GIFs to a Tumblr called Bees & Bombs. Whyte uses an open source programming language called Processing to make his GIFs, which each look like they could double as the newest Animal Collective cover art.
A Tumblr devoted to mathematics, patterns, and the abstract called Archery makes equally intricate mathematics based art using a program called Mathematica. They provide the formula used for each GIF, and often include more detailed explanation about the maths behind their mesmerising visuals.
This GIF shows off a moiré pattern, for instance:
Other GIFs based on mathematics concepts are less abstract, but no less beautiful. Lucas Vieira Barbosa, a Brazilian physics student, created an imagining of a Villarceau circles (a pair of perfect circles) on a torus (which is maths-speak for the shape of a donut):
Barbosa contributes this type of animation to Wikipedia, and is part of a growing community using web art tools to illustrate scientific concepts.
When GIFs appear online, they're often looping images of Jennifer Lawrence looking charmingly disgruntled, or cats riding a Roomba. But to think that's all the GIF offers is to sell it short. Artists and scientists continue to push the boundaries of the digital medium. And and to help you stay awake in geometry class in the process. [Colossal]