The Möbius strip

by ayushkhaitan3437

Almost every Math student (or even otherwise) has heard of the Möbius strip at least once in their career. I too have. Embarrassingly, I always had my doubts about it. And I can bet that a lot of people have the same problem.

A Möbius strip is almost always taught in the following “intuitive way”: take a long, thin strip of paper, and connect the opposite ends along the length in such a way that one end is oriented in the opposite direction as compared to the other end. You get something that looks like the picture below:

Paper mobius strip

And when you take an object, say a pen cap around the Möbius strip, you’re somehow supposed to believe that the pen cap returns to the same spot as before, but with the opposite orientation. But you (or at least I) would think “No!! The pen cap has not returned to the original starting point! It is at the other side of the piece of paper! Points at opposite sides of the paper can’t be the same point!”

As I grew older, I decided to exorcise my demons, and think about these seemingly fundamental concepts that I had accepted, but not really understood. And I have arrived upon the conclusion that the paper model is completely wrong, at least to convey the essence of the Möbius strip. A much much more convincing model is the following:

Mobius strip

Imagine a coin that is traveling from top to bottom. The coin is colored in the following way: the left side is red, and the right side is blue. After disappearing at the bottom, it re-emerges at the top, but now its left side is blue, and its right side is red. This picture is much much clearer to me than paper strips forming loops.

Thus ends my spiel for the day!