The Möbius Strip

Which of the following is a three-dimensional object, but only has one side?

And the answer: the Möbius strip.    

You can make a Möbius strip at home, using a rectangular strip of paper and tape. Take one end of the paper and make a half twist, and then tape the two ends together. You have now created a 3-D object that has one continuous side!

Photo credit: David Benbennick

In 1858, two scientists made a simultaneous discovery: the Möbius strip. August Ferdinand Möbius, a mathematician and theoretical astronomer, discovered the phenomenon at the same time as Johann Benedict Listing, a younger mathematician. The irony is perhaps too great to ignore: the two scientists made the same discovery, at the same time, coming from different directions...much like the Möbius strip itself.

The Möbius strip is considered to be an impossible shape, meaning it has never been observed in nature. It defines an un-orientable object – there is no distinct up, down, left or right. Yet that has hardly stopped scientists and artists alike from replicating it into oblivion. Indeed, it has served as a source of inspiration for jewelry, the model for artworks, and more. In technology, it has even been incorporated to maximize the functionality of some machines. Conveyor belts use Möbius strips because they allow the entire surface area of the belt to receive an equal amount of wear, which makes it last longer.

Learn more about the Möbius strip here.

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