By George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics


Stained glass can be used to make many mathematical forms. One very beautiful shape is the polar zonohedron. Hans Schepker made this three-foot diameter example from hundreds of pieces of stained glass.

Below, you can see Hans soldering it together while supporting the partially assembled lamp in a hammock. His construction approach is based on 5-by-5 modules which fit into a brass framework.

A view along the axis is quite spectacular. You can see it consists of twenty spirals in each direction. Every spiral strip is geometrically identical, with a slightly different quadrilateral shape required at each position along the spiral. Many construction photos can be seen on Hans’s website, here. Be sure to observe how the modules divide it structurally with four-way rotational symmetry, but the color pattern has five-way symmetry, so the colors had to be planned differently on each module.

See all of George Hart’s Math Monday columns

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.