Thomas Fernique

Researcher (Mathematics & Computer Sciences)
CNRS & University Sorbonne Paris Nord
Paris, France

As a researcher in theoretical computer science at the CNRS in Paris (France), my work often concerns mathematical objects whose beauty can seduce beyond the scientific circle. Making them tangible objects aims to establish a bridge between artistic and scientific sensibilities.

Twin arctic circles
Twin arctic circles
21 x 21 x 21 cm

Small cubes are stacked in a large cube so that each stack is at least as high as those to its right and in front of it (in mathematics, this is called a plane partition). The number of different configurations is gigantic, but the shape of a random one always seems about the same: chaotic inside a kind of circle and as "frozen" outside this circle. In 1998, H. Cohn, M. Larsen and M. Propp proved that when the ratio of the sides of the large and small cubes grows, the border of the "frozen" zone tends towards a perfect circle: this is known as the "Arctic circle theorem."

The artwork presents two among the 10^1670 possible configurations (much more than atoms in the universe) when the large cube can contain 70x70x70 small cubes.