This mathematician is making sense of nature’s complexity


To Domokos, 61, a professor on the Budapest College of Know-how and Economics, this peculiar rocky outcrop is a wellspring of mathematical questions.

Impressed by rock cracks, Domokos devised a brand new framework for classifying polygonal tessellation that’s versatile sufficient to accommodate messy pure patterns, however rigorous sufficient to be helpful. Utilized in geology, it reveals common patterns within the geometry of fractures at each scale from mud cracks to the tectonic jigsaw, and it’s now serving to NASA scientists perceive the surfaces of different worlds. His work on the geometry of pebbles has helped hint erosion on Earth and Mars. Within the fingers of MIT researchers, Domokos’s work on the balancing factors of 3D types impressed the design of a self-orienting capsule capsule for delivering vaccines to the abdomen. And most lately, Domokos teamed up with chemists to make use of his rock fracture geometry to foretell how molecules assemble into “2D” sheets—a notoriously cussed drawback normally left to supercomputers.

“Gábor’s issues are by some means topological, by some means geometric, by some means mechanics, partial differential equations. Some [are] loopy,” says Sándor Bozóki, a mathematician on the Institute for Pc Science and Management in Budapest, who has revealed with Domokos. “He’s not a number one determine in any of those fields,” says utilized mathematician Alain Goriely of Oxford College. However, he provides, like the perfect utilized mathematicians, “he’s utilizing them in probably the most intelligent and delightful approach.” 

“The very first thing that individuals do after they perceive one thing: give it a reputation,” Domokos says. “And shapes don’t have names.”

Krisztina Regős, mathematician

Finest identified for co-discovering the gömböc—the primary convex 3D form with simply two balancing factors—Domokos goals to grasp the bodily world by describing its types within the easiest potential geometry.

He usually begins new tasks by concocting authentic methods to categorise shapes. To show that the gömböc existed earlier than they discovered it, he and Péter Várkonyi launched mathematically exact definitions of flatness and thinness. To categorize pebbles, Domokos counts their variety of steady and unstable balancing factors. And to explain tessellating patterns in rock cracks or nanomaterials, he calculates simply two numbers: the typical variety of “tiles” assembly at every vertex within the “mosaic” and the typical variety of vertices per tile.

The purpose is to seek out “a brand new language” to explain the shapes, says mathematician Krisztina Regős, one among Domokos’s graduate college students. “The very first thing that individuals do after they perceive one thing: give it a reputation,” Domokos says. “And shapes don’t have names.” 

However with the proper language, it’s potential to begin asking questions: Do homogenous 3D shapes with simply two balancing factors exist? Sure. These shapes decrease flatness and thinness, and one is the gömböc—which, because of its geometry, at all times rights itself irrespective of how it’s set down. What occurs to pebbles as they erode? They lose balancing factors, getting rounder after which flatter over time. What does the Earth break into when it falls aside? Plato was proper: on common, it breaks into cubes.

a white gömböc-shaped object starkly lit
Domokos is greatest identified for co-discovering the gömböc— a convex 3D form with simply two balancing factors.


After all, fields like geomorphology have already got schemes for classifying objects of research—there are a number of methods of cataloguing pebbles, for example, says Mikaël Attal, a geomorphologist on the College of Edinburgh. However as a perpetual outsider, Domokos both doesn’t know or doesn’t care about upsetting conference. Even inside arithmetic, he doesn’t match right into a self-discipline. 


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