August 15, 2013

Möbius Mentions I

References to Möbius strips can pop up unexpectedly in all sorts of settings, including novels. I'm especially intrigued by examples in which the term is used without further explanation. The reader is expected to understand the reference and know all about the peculiar one-sided, one-edged character of this mathematical object.

One example that I recently encountered is in an amusing, quirky mystery, Forbidden Fruit by Kerry Greenwood. Near the beginning of the book, the author offers the following passage:

"I donned a loose caftan made to a Therese Webb pattern. I had made it seven times, and each time I had a moment when I feared that the fabric would have to be folded into another dimension to fit the design. This möbius robe was made of a fine blue butterfly batik."

I'm not sure I can picture exactly what this garment looks like, but it sounds suitably exotic.

A crocheted Möbius band, by Josh Holden.
Photo by I. Peterson

Another mystery with a Möbius reference is What's the Worst That Could Happen by Donald Westlake.

"When Brandon . . . stood at the picture window, with its view out over the Battle-Lake, at the moment peaceful, with the tall Moebius shape of the hotel beyond it."

In this case, I definitely can't picture the twisty hotel, but the setting is Las Vegas, so it's probably not beyond the realm of possibility. Yet it sounds pretty weird.

A design for a building with a Möbius-strip ramp.
Courtesy of R.J. Krawczyk and J. Thulaseedas

In some novels, the Möbius metaphor or simile is straightforward and apt. Consider the following passage from Goodbye Without Leaving by Laurie Colwin.

"Laundry," I said, yawning. "I never really understood about laundry before. It's a kind of Moebius strip—no end and no beginning."

For some examples in articles and other settings see "Words with a Twist" and "Möbius Pop."


Thulaseedas, J., and R.J. Krawczyk. 2003. Möbius concepts in architecture. ISAMA/Bridges 2003 Conference: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science. July 23-25. Granada, Spain. Available at

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