USA/Minnesota Team Crafts Award-Winning Snow Sculpture
January 24, 2000--The Wolfram Research-sponsored USA/Minnesota team captured second place in
the elite 10th annual International Snow Sculpture
Championships held last week in Breckenridge, Colorado. The team was one
of only 17 chosen out of 24 to participate in this year's competition,
included representation from the United States, Canada, England, Germany,
Finland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, and Switzerland.
The Wolfram team's award-winning sculpture, entitled Rhapsody in
was of a Mathematica-generated Enneper surface of degree two--a
minimal surface with tremendous symmetry and aesthetic appeal. The Enneper
surface belongs to the family of geometric, minimal surfaces discovered by
Alfred Enneper in 1864. A minimal surface is one whose area becomes
whenever it is pushed or pulled a little, ranging from the simple flat
to the well-known catenoid and helicoid. At every point, minimal surfaces have saddle
points, which give them great strength and allow them to be carved
very thinly out of snow or ice.
On Tuesday, contest entrants were each allocated a 20-ton,
10 x 10 x 12-foot
block of snow from which to create their sculpture using only nonpower
tools. USA/Minnesota team members included Robert Longhurst, an
wood and stone sculptor but snow-carving neophyte; returning team members
Stan Wagon and Dan Schwalbe, faculty in the Mathematics Department of
Macalester College; and Andy Cantrell, a sophomore at Macalester College.
John Bruning of the Tropel Corporation served as the nonsculpting team
photographer and manager.
Although first place went to the Russian team for their soaring tribute
the new millennium, and third place went to the Swiss team for their
intricately carved sphere, the USA/Minnesota team also won two out of the
other three awards presented on Saturday. The team received the Artists'
Choice Award (voting by the sculptors) and the People's Choice Award
by the approximately 15,000 event spectators). The Kids' Choice Award went
to the USA/Breckenridge team for its butterfly and rose.
Team captain Stan Wagon was very pleased with the positive reception of
community to a mathematical sculpture. In his acceptance speech, Wagon
excitedly acknowledged that, even as mathematicians, "true understanding
can be obtained only by interacting with the piece in a truly
way. This is what snow allows us to do. In a very short period of time and
with a minimum of tools, we can sculpt a complicated shape and so learn
more about it. It's a glorious opportunity and tremendous fun."
For further information and an extensive photographic display of the
event, visit the USA/Minnesota
team home page.
is also featured in the MathTrek column on the MAA site.
Photos from the
International Snow Sculpture Championships are also available.
Snow Sculpture Photos from the Wolfram Research Team
(Select the thumbnail of the image you wish to view.)
Minnesota team takes second place!
152K MPEG movie
Russia's first-place entry toasts 2000.
The Swiss entry takes third prize.
Winner of the Kids' Choice Award features a butterfly
and a rose.