Fun & Games Science
Easy plastic buckyball

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Sean Ragan writes:

A few times in my experiments with creative reuse I’ve had some very satisfying Aha! moments. One was my finding, back in 2004, that this flexible blue plastic conduit (or “ENT” = Electrical Nonmetallic Tubing), which I find very beautiful, fits perfectly into 3/4″ PVC pipe fittings. Using only conduit, 3/4″ PVC tees, and PVC cement, I was able to construct the giant bouncing blue buckyball model shown above. It is slightly more than three feet in diameter and bounces delightfully when dropped on the floor. Its construction led to the realization, on my part, that any geodesic system could be approximated by a construction toy having three-way connections and flexible members. Although many geodesic graphs call for nodes with greater than three-way connectivity, any such connection can be approximated by a circle constructed only using three-way connections. In fact, my blue sphere wasn’t undertaken with the intent of modeling a buckyball, rather it was an approximation of an icosahedron in which each 5-way joint was replaced by a 5-prong circle. I only realized after the fact that this method incidentally modeled C60 buckminsterfullerene.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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