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Math Monday: Paper plate geometry
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Math Monday: Paper plate geometry

By George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics

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The raw material for making mathematical constructions can be found all around you. Bradford Hansen-Smith makes intricate geometric sculptures entirely from paper plates. The above icosahedral form is assembled from eighty folded plates that interlock.

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This helical form is constructed from 128 paper plates.

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This crystal lattice is made from 181 plates.

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And this exponentially-branching construction consists of 517 paper plates!

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4 thoughts on “Math Monday: Paper plate geometry

  1. I’ve been to the WholeMovement.com website. Your browser will be informed that visiting this website will harm your computer. Navigating between any two pages of the website will require that you click not one but two “ignore warning” boxes, every time. Makes visiting the site kind of frustrating.

    I spent enough time there to find steps for basic paper plate folding, accompanied by some rather cryptic instructions and uninformative drawings. If there are instructions there for folding any of the excellent examples given above, I have not found them yet.

    The site seems to be structured to hide just enough information to get you to buy something, rather than to give you real information that would make you WANT to buy something. And the language is rather sloppy; a visitor there would not be able to learn how or when to use the plural form “polyhedra” of the word “polyhedron.”

    Sorry to post and complain… but I got more from viewing George Hart’s short intro to the site here than from the site itself. (And I would really like to know that the malware issues with the site, as warned against, have been eliminated.)

    I can give you the gist of the site in these words:
    Fold paper plates in half;
    fold the halves in half;
    fold a halved plate into thirds to create a circle with 3 diameters, dividing the circle into six sections;
    eyeball the sections equal;
    hold plates together with bobby pins in different combinations.

    That’s it, pretty much.

    I wouldn’t buy anything from the site or download anything (unless you’re using a Mac) until they iron out the suspected malware problems and get rid of the warnings.

    1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Rowley. This did not happen when I checked the link before posting the piece, but I’m getting that warning screen now, on my Mac/Mozilla.

      I’ll message George and Bradford Hansen-Smith and try and get this resolved ASAP.

      Sorry for the inconvenience.

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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 man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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