Truncated Icosahedron: Maker Faire NYC Most Memorable for Kids

Rob Marshall and his wife at Maker Faire NYC 2012 Image by Helene McLaughlin
Truncated Icosahedron Graphic courtesy Wikimedia

While attending World Maker Faire in New York earlier this month, I was surrounded by hundreds of DIY projects that had been dreamt up by hackers and makers around the world. The projects were magnificent! From the moment I walked through the gates for set-up on Friday till we had to leave to drive home on Sunday, there was one display that I was magnetized to. From afar it imply looked like a large wooden sculpture of an soccer ball. I had to know more. I immediately went up and started taking pictures, it was massive and very impressive. The structure was a truncated icosahedron, and I hadn’t even seen the best part of the sculpture at that point. Rob Marshall, owner of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Hamlet Construction, had turned this ancient design into what he calls the “Happy Fun Ball.”

Kids climbing inside.
Image courtesy Hamlet Construction, inc.

A truncated icosahedron is an Archimedean solid, one of thirteen convex isogonal nonprismatic solids whose faces are two or more types of regular polygons. It has 12 regular pentagonal faces, 20 regular hexagonal faces, 60 vertices and 90 edges. Rob told me that his inspiration was straight from Archimedes and the design begged to be conquered by him. The final product really was truly awe inspiring. Standing seven feet six inches, the spinning truncated icosahedron gave kids and adults a spinning ride worth remembering.

Spinning! Image: Helene McLaughlin


As I was taking my ride inside this wooden soccer ball, I played around with the physics of the spin and realized that the spin could be manipulated via the law of angular momentum conservation. The closer you are to the center point of the ride, the faster it will go, and the further you are from the center point the more it will slow down. Picking your sitting or standing point is also one of the most important ways to avoid dizziness while onboard. If you get a great position the ride is spectacular!

If that was all this gem could do, it would be enough, however Rob explained that he designed the entire structure to be safe for kids to climb in. This feature is particularly useful when, after spinning the sphere for hours to give everyone a ride, Rob is in need of a break. I personally saw 12 kids inside the dome at one point.

I was so impressed by this ride, and the fact that it was built by a single enthusiastic maker, that I even offered to make them a promotional video.

If you would be interested in making your own paper replica of a truncated icosahedron, the folks over at Gijs Korthals Altes have designed a printable pattern.

Other places to find a truncated icosahedron in “nature” are on soccer balls, radar domes, and the rhinovirus (a common cold!).


La Luna: Pixar's latest animated short is a masterpiece

©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The latest Pixar animated short La Luna, written and directed by Enrico Casarosa, is nothing short of a masterpiece. La Luna is the longest ever Pixar short at 7 minutes, and is featured at the beginning of Disney/Pixar’s Brave.There is a reason why this short has already been nominated for a 2012 Academy Award for Best Short Film, Animated and 2012 Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject. I am an astrophysicist by training, so its likely that anything with stars and the moon is generally to get acclaims from me, and while obviously not scientifically accurate, this story has the making of a legend.

La Luna is a touching coming of age story of a young boy. Bambino’s first night working with his father and grandfather is exciting to say the least. On a very dark night, Father and Papa row the trio far out to sea to the middle of nowhere where they stop and wait. When Bambino discovers his family’s custodial line of work is far from ordinary, he must chose between the traditions of his father, grandfather, or find his own niche in the family business.

Beginning with Pixar’s second feature length film, A Bug’s Life, a Pixar short has always been shown in theaters before the film starts. Pixar shorts that don’t make it to the big screen generally end up on home media releases and showcase Pixar’s technological and cinematographic skills. Of the 21 previously released Pixar shorts, only three have ever won an Academy Award, Tin Toy (1988), Geri’s Game (1997) and For The Birds (2000).  La Luna easily matches the quality of those three previous winners.

Pixar has also created several short series that aren’t part of the Pixar short list. These include Cars Toons (2008-present) and Toy Story Toons (2011-present). Pixar has also created a lengthy list of educational background content that is released with their feature length films, again these aren’t counted in the 21 shorts that Pixar is best known for.

If you are as in love with Pixar shorts as I am, you will love that Pixar has released its first volume collection of shorts complete through 2006’s Lifted on Blu-Ray and DVD. Rumors suggest that Pixar is expected to release its second volume in November 2012, but there has been no official statement from Disney or Pixar on the matter.

Pixar shorts

Short Year Initial theatrical release with Initial home release* with Academy Award for
Best Animated Short Film
The Adventures of André and Wally B.** 1984
Luxo Jr. 1986 Toy Story 2 [3] Toy Story 2 Nominated
Red’s Dream 1987
Tin Toy 1988 Toy Story Won
Knick Knack 1989 Finding Nemo [4] Finding Nemo
Geri’s Game 1997 A Bug’s Life A Bug’s Life Won
For the Birds 2000 Monsters, Inc. Monsters, Inc.
Mike’s New Car 2002 Nominated
Boundin’ 2003 The Incredibles The Incredibles
Jack-Jack Attack 2005
One Man Band Cars Cars Nominated
Mater and the Ghostlight 2006
Lifted Ratatouille Ratatouille Nominated
Your Friend the Rat 2007
Presto 2008 WALL-E WALL-E Nominated
Partly Cloudy 2009 Up Up
Dug’s Special Mission
Day & Night 2010 Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3 Nominated
La Luna [5] 2011 Brave

* non-compilation

Don’t Make Hulk Wanna Smash The Internet

She-Hulk by kazamatsuro – Photo via Creative Commons

I hate New Year’s resolutions. Especially the part where the internet is flooded with copycat articles full of tips, tricks, top-ten lists, and celebrity declarations. The changing of the calendar doesn’t make the date special, and broadcasting their intent doesn’t necessarily help people achieve personal goals. Every year at this time, I compulsively dodge those posts and articles and vlogs because exposure to New Year’s resolutions tends to cause an Incredible Hulk-like transformation in me. And I don’t really want to be the person who leaves a path of ALL-CAPS destruction in the comments of every other new post on the internet during most of January.

There’s probably no hope of reversing the resolution trend, especially not with the entire weight of the weight-loss industry backing what I snarkily refer to as the season of shrinky self-destruction. However, resistance is not futile. This year, I’m encouraging people to break with the tradition, and if they won’t, to at least consider alternatives to the set of boring, doomed cure-alls that most people resolve to pursue.

Many of the common New Year’s resolutions focus on accomplishing more, acquiring more stuff, and doing everything faster. Those are exhausting, largely foolhardy endeavors, especially for anyone trying to become a healthier and happier person. For a fun, easy change of pace, try doing less, getting rid of stuff, and slowing down. That last one is the best, I think. Just imagine how much stress we could ditch simply by taking our time. Resolving to slow down will probably improve the quality – if not the quantity – of our work and our relationships, two goals that may not be on everyone’s list, but probably should be.

If oppositional resolutions aren’t your cuppa, but you can’t resist the impulse to make resolutions altogether, try just sticking with the good things you already do. And if you must share your resolutions with the world, the least you can do is resolve to work on something more important to the world than your weight. 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives and the International Year of Sustainable Energy For All. If those causes don’t motivate you, try browsing the Project For Awesome for a charity that does, then put your back into supporting it. It’s probably as good for your heart as going to the gym, albeit in a different way, and selfless deeds are far more interesting for others to read about on your blog.

People who are happy in their New Year’s resolution ruts? I beg you, please, to attend the science about habit formation and will power’s limitations. Confine your resolutions to small, specific actions you can easily add to your existing routine. This should improve your likelihood of success, and hopefully diminish the flood of woeful posts about failed New Year’s resolutions that also make Hulk wanna smash the internet.