You are here

The Math Challenge Behind the 9/11 Memorial's Names

October 5, 2011

The National September 11 Memorial in New York City features the names of the 2,983 victims etched across bronze panels surrounding two memorial pools. The unique arrangement of the names created a complex mathematical problem for the designers.

The names on the memorial are arranged neither alphabetically nor by company, but in a way that, according to an article in Scientific American, “reflects thousands of interpersonal relationships forged before the attacks and, on at least one occasion, during the immediate aftermath.” Family members of 9/11 victims could request that a victim’s name on the memorial be near the name of any other victim whose relationship was meaningful.

To accommodate the number of interlocking adjacency requests, the designers of the memorial used a complex algorithm built by media design firm Local Projects and software artist Jer Thorp.

Thorp talked about the algorithm he used to order the names on his blog and at a O’Reilly Strata conference held in New York City in late September. Watch the video of his talk below.

Source: Scientific AmericanForbes

Start Date: 
Wednesday, October 5, 2011