Hidden patterns even in the most mundane of objects
August 29, 2014 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Mathematician Zachary Abel builds impressive Mathematical Sculptures from office supplies and other household objects.

Via this mildlyimpressive reddit post: I made a ball out of binder clips (130 binder clips, "decently heavy") whose poster sadly has not yet followed up with instructions. Instructables has a less-impressive 60-binder-clip ball, which may still prove to be a challenging build: "My fingers have now just recovered to the point where I can post a comment", "O.M.G.!!!!! I am SO FRUSTRATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!".
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (11 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Note: this is the same Zach Abel featured in this documentary on the IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad)!
posted by Backslash at 7:46 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

The sculpture consisting of six binder clips holding one another open makes me nervous.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:25 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've tried to make much less ambitious sculptures (George Hart has instructions for making tensegrities out of paper lips and straws), and it's super frustrating.

These are fabulous. I think my favorites were the borromean boxes and the snub dodecahedron out of paper clips.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:30 PM on August 29, 2014

The sculpture consisting of six binder clips holding one another open makes me nervous.

Would you say it's... Stressful?
posted by axiom at 8:33 PM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Has anybody found instructions for making "Stressful"? I would love to make one for my desk at work!

And are there any videos showing how the Borromean paper clips fit together? I guess you could open up one clip and then bend it back after assembly, but it doesn't sound like that would work for multiple clips like in those boxes. These would make excellent desk toys or gifts for nerds ...

posted by Quietgal at 9:58 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know if it helps to look at this simpler implementation
posted by aydeejones at 12:25 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Leaving this here since it's relevant: A redditor posted this binder clip ball a couple weeks ago and I want to try it myself. I think the pattern of clips and arm is more appealing than those on Abel's binder clip balls.
posted by ardgedee at 10:50 AM on August 30, 2014

Well, Hubby was able to figure it out after looking at the photos at the bottom of this page, which is actually instructions for something different but somebody posted a few pics of a "Stressful" assembly. It took strong hands and pliers, though, so maybe this wasn't the best way to build it. It also took a brain that thinks fluently in 3 dimensions - flatlanders like me would be hopelessly lost.

I think we've figured out what to give our geeky man-who-has-everything dads for Christmas this year! (Can't wait to bring my cool new desk toy to work next week and see how people react.)
posted by Quietgal at 1:44 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

If they were any less good, I would say that he had too much time on his hands.
posted by BWA at 4:13 PM on August 30, 2014

Wonder if he's any good at paper folding?

"Here's your pink slip, Zach."

Seriously, these are nifty.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:12 PM on August 30, 2014

> Wonder if he's any good at paper folding?

Algorithms for designing pop-up cards.
Zachary Abel, Erik D. Demaine, Martin L. Demaine, Sarah Eisenstat, Anna Lubiw, André Schulz, Diane Souvaine, Giovanni Viglietta, and Andrew Winslow. In Proceedings of the 30th International Symposium on Theoretical Aspects of Computer Science, pages 269–280, March 2013.
posted by Quietgal at 3:31 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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