Monthly Archives: November 2019

Notes behind a talk: visualizing modular forms

Today, I’ll be at Bowdoin College giving a talk on visualizing modular forms. This is a talk about the actual process and choices involved in illustrating a modular form; it’s not about what little lies one might hold in their head in order to form some mental image of a modular form.1

This is a talk heavily inspired by the ICERM semester program on Illustrating Mathematics (currently wrapping up). In particular, I draw on2 conversations with Frank Farris (about using color to highlight desired features), Elias Wegert (about using logarithmically scaling contours), Ed Harriss (about the choice of colorscheme), and Brendan Hassett (about overall design choices).

There are very many pictures in the talk!

Here are the slides for the talk.

I wrote a few different complex-plotting routines for this project. At their core, they are based on sage’s complex_plot. There are two major variants that I use.

The first (currently called “ccomplex_plot”. Not a good name) overwrites how sage handles lightness in complex_plot in order to produce “contours” at spots where the magnitude is a two-power. These contours are actually a sudden jump in brightness.

The second (currently called “raw_complex_plot”, also not a good name) is even less formal. It vectorizes the computation and produces an object containing the magnitude and argument information for each pixel to be drawn. It then uses numpy and matplotlib to convert these magnitudes and phases into RGB colors according to a matplotlib-compatible colormap.

I am happy to send either of these pieces of code to anyone who wants to see them, but they are very much written for my own use at the moment. I intend to improve them for general use later, after I’ve experimented further.

In addition, I generated all the images for this talk in a single sagemath jupyter notebook (with the two .spyx cython dependencies I allude to above). This is also available here. (Note that using a service like nbviewer or nbconvert to view or convert it to html might be a reasonable idea).

As a final note, I’ll add that I mistyped several times in the preparation of the images for this talk. Included below are a few of the interesting-looking mistakes. The first two resulted from incorrectly applied conformal mappings, while the third came from incorrectly applied color correction.

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Making Plots of Modular Forms

Making plots of modular forms

Inspired by the images and ideas of Elias Wegert, I thought it might be interesting to attempt to implement a version of his colorizing technique for complex functions in sage. The purpose is ultimately to revisit how one plots modular forms in the LMFDB (see lmfdb.org and click around to see various plots — some are good, others are less good).

 

The challenge is that plotting a function from $\mathbb{C} \longrightarrow \mathbb{C}$ is that the graph is naturally 4-dimensional, and we are very bad at visualizing 4d things. In fact, we want to use only 2d to visualize it.

A complex number $z = re^{i \theta}$ is determined by the magnitude ($r$) and the argument ($\theta$). Thus
one typical approach to represent the value taken by a function $f$ at a point $z$ is to represent the magnitude of $f(z)$ in terms of the brightness, and to represent the argument in terms of color.

For example, the typical complex space would then look like the following.

(more…)

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