A common recommendation to the layperson who is stranded among a group of mathematicians and doesn’t know what to say is to ask the question above. It will almost always trigger a lengthy and incomprehensible response.

For example, let’s look at the surface below. It constitutes a building block that can be translated around to make larger pieces of the surface. That this works has to do with the small and large horizontal squares. It is similar to Alan Schoen’s Figure 8 surface, but a bit simpler (it only has genus 4)

This surface belongs to a 5-dimensional family about which little is known. The only simple thing I can do with it is to move the squares closer or farther apart. So, how does this look at the boundary? On one hand, when the squares get close, we see little Costa surfaces emerging, as one might expect:

At the other end of infinity, things look complicated, but depending what we focus on, there is a doubly periodic Scherk surface or a doubly periodic Karcher-Scherk surface:

Below are, for the sake of their beauty, the two translation structures associated to two of the Weierstrass 1-forms defining this surface. Next week we will study a close cousin of this surface.