Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reflections on the Trinity

Over the course of the last week I stumbled across a couple of neat ways to help students become comfortable with the paradox of the Trinity (a Christian concept).  That is, how can something that is three distinctly different and separate items also be one.


One of the guys I drink coffee with shared this analogy.  Take the student.  Hand them an ice cube.  Ask them what it is.  Have them drop the ice cube into a frying pan.  An electric skillet is a handy teaching aid if you are a Sunday School teacher.  Turn on the heat.  Ask the student what they see after the ice cube melted.  Turn the heat up.  When the water is half evaporated, ask the student what the water is turning into.

Yup, three states of matter.  Three distinctly different materials with different properties.  Still, it is all H2O.

Möbius strip

From The Mathematical Tourist:

Designed in 1965 by artist José de Rivera (1904-1985), who titled the piece Infinity, the looped sculpture is based on a mathematical figure known as the Möbius strip. A Möbius strip has just one side and one continuous edge. You can make a model of a Möbius strip by joining the two ends of a strip of paper after giving one end a 180-degree twist.

De Rivera's sculpture is a three-dimensional analog of the usual twisted, rectangular strip. The loop's cross section is an equilateral triangle, and this triangle rotates through 120 degrees before the ends meet to form a complete loop. Instead of three surfaces, the final result has just one continuous surface that runs three times around the loop.

I find it ironic that this sculptural expression of the Christian concept of Trinity is displayed atop a black granite pillar in front of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  I guess you can get away with religious art if you give it an abstract name like "Infinity".


  1. Well done sir, those are excellent examples! And I don't think .gov knows the deeper meaning of Infinity, otherwise it'd be gone!

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