February 19, 2017
I looked up the definition of a tetrahedron today, I figured out how to spell kaleidocycle a few hours ago. Just saying.
Sometimes an exploration pursues me. It’s always a gift to be preyed upon by ideas, but if my desk is already full and messy, and I think I can’t bear adding one more layer I pretend to kind of ignore the newcomer. No, this strategy doesn’t work.
I didn’t know that tetrahedrons were following me around. Like I said, just this morning I finally looked up the definition (a solid having four plane triangular faces; a triangular pyramid).
The image above is where this all started. This is not such a startling set of pictures until you know that the image shows the same, unchanged structure viewed from front and back. It’s on the facebook page of someone whose name is written in an alphabet I don’t understand. This is the link to the page on facebook https://www.facebook.com/artsmathematics/videos/718044448365422/ . Take a look if you can. It’s such an amazing bit of transformation, which I have yet to figure out how to do. What’s going on here is that this structure to made up of connected 3D shapes that rotate together to reveal different surfaces. It’s very tricky and fun to see the shapes turn, revealing new surfaces.
The next piece of this story is that a teacher just a bit south of me in Upstate NY posted some directions on how to build a certain geometric shape, and he asked, via twitter, if anyone would be able to test drive his tutorial. It looked simple enough to me, so I thought I’d try it out the following Saturday morning. I thought it would take about 2o minutes. Ha ha.
Looking back, I think if this teacher, Mr.Kaercher, had done a tutorial on a simple tetrahedron it might have gone more quickly and I might have finished up knowing what a tetrahedron was. But, no, Mr. K provided directions for a tensegrity tetrahedron, and since I didn’t have much of a clue about the definition of either term, I didn’t really have much of an idea of what I was doing.
Even so, after a megillah of failures, I got it done and was quite pleased with myself.
In the meantime I was still thinking about those images from that facebook page.
I showed the FB clip to book artist Ed Hutchins. He told me that what I was looking at was a type of kaleidocycle.
Oh, and Ed just happened to have a hot-off-the-presses copy of what is probably the world’s most amazing example of a hexagonal kaleidocycle, designed by Simon Arizpe. (This is a fully funded Kickstarter Project, which you can view to see the book in motion.)
This structure tells a story as it rotates. Since these rotating sides can turn forwards or backwards, the sequence of the story is determined by the direction the viewer rotates the kaleidocycle. The way that I choose to turn it, it begins with a bear peeking out at a stream…
…the bear opens his mouth, a salmon jumps out…
… and then the salmon jumps into the river. There’s one more frame, but I’m not going to be a spoiler and show it to you.
So what does this have to do with tetrahedrons? I’m getting there.
As it turns out, the last couple of times I’ve gone lurking at the Lawler family math page, they’ve been looking at, yes, tetrahedrons.
This shape that the Lawler’s were considering was beginning to look familiar to me. Part of the reason for this was that, ever since Ed had given me the gift of the term kaleidocycle I had been Googling around then assembling kaleidocycles.
Here’s one of my first attempts. Notice that I forgot to attach the ends together before I closed things up. This turned out to be a good thing, because, wait! these shapes appear to be repeated echoes of the shape that the Lawler family was exploring.
Just to pile it on, it certainly helped that just yesterday a package came in the mail, all the way from France, from Simon Gregg. In the package was, can you guess?… a tetrahedron.
That Saturday a few week ago that I tried, time after time, to create my tensegrity tetrahedron, I had been posting my failures publicly on twitter. I imagine that Simon thought that it might be merciful to send me some bamboo, as the straws that I was using would sometimes collapse. Included with the bamboo rods, Simon also gave me a collapsible tetrahedron, held together by stretchy cord.
With all of these pieces floating around me it, I finally made the connection that units of kaleidocycles are series of tetrahedrons.
Now to reward you for making it all the way to the end of this post, here is a pattern for a kaleidocycle that you can make yourself.
Just cut it out, use it alone or attach it to the one near the top of this post, but, in either case, do make sure you attach ends to make it circular. Here’s a pleasant little video to show you how it’s put together.
I still intend to figure out how to make the kaleidocycle that I saw on FB. When I do sit down and try it out, at least, now, I feel like I’m starting with some helpful understandings.
I have no big attachment to figuring it out for myself, so if you are inspired to decipher it, please let me in on its secrets!
That’s it for now. Thanks for staying with me through these meanderings.
Used bamboo sticks with bobby pins in the ends to make another one of the Mark Kaercher project. The bamboo worked out great! If I was to make this again with straws, I think I’d try to first put stirrers, like what Starbucks provides to stir coffee, inside the straws. But love the bamboo!
November 22, 2015
Although I intend the title of this post to refer to what I’ve been messing around with this weekend, I’m not really sure it means anything. What’s been happening in my studio is that I’ve wanted to mix up some interesting lines with some interesting folds.
After a person with the handle of GHS Maths posted a group of images made by rotating the graph of a trig equation I got it into my head to see what one of them would look like on a hexagon-flexagon.
If you don’t know what a hexagon-flexagon is, you haven’t watched enough Vy Hart videos. In 2012 Vy offered her own utterly delightful interpretations of what she thought people should know about this piece of paper wizardry in Hexaflexagon, (6 MILLION views!), Hexaflexagon 2, and the sequel Hexaflexagon Safety Guide .
A Hexagon-Flexagon has three distinct sides, which results in six distinct designs: I’ve written about these here, here, and showcased student work here. I haven’t thought about these in a while, but it seemed to me that the image at the top of this post, and others that I had been working with lately, might be interesting to put on a hexaflexagon.
I had ideas for all sorts of images but I became so enchanted by what the variations of the image above that in the end this is what I went with.
My computer did not like this idea at all. I spent half my weekend redoing what I lost when my program crashed, half my weekend watching that blue swirly thing going around, and half my weekend coddling my computer so it wouldn’t crash. I know that I’ve listed three halves, so if that bothers you, here’s what I did with fourth half: I was able to actually make an image that became a hexaflexagon.
It’s a bit tricky to follow, but it actually works really well. I love being able to print these up on my little printer.
This is a dynamic structure, that is not easily appreciated in still photos. I am going to either get my son to make a video of me working the structure or will post the more appropriate stills that I can come up with. Tomorrow. Edited into this post. See you then.
Update: I made a quick video! My first one! Based on the image in this PDF which is printed on both sides of the paper.
For a hexaflexagon template that has a snowflake, a Christmas wreath and a Star of David, visit Chalkdust magazine at http://chalkdustmagazine.com/blog/how-to-make-christmas-special/. You’ll find a link there, and now here too, for Martin Gardner’s famous article on Hexaflexagons.
November 28, 2011
I’m ending this series of posts on hexagon-flexagon with images of work done by students in Michele Gannon’s art classes in the Adirondacks. I taught the students how to do the paper-folding. Michelle’s considerable artistic influence supported the students’ creative output. Each of images that I am showcasing here is followed by the same image in different configuration on the same structure. Notice how the patterns change.
This lovely design was created with Prismacolor pencils. Some, but not all, of the Prismacolors show up well on black paper.
This next set shows a really simple design that works really well, as the look of it changes dramatically when the image is flexed.
Since each hexagon-flexagon has three distinct surfaces to design and decorate I brought in a variety of novel tools to help motivate the students to keep working. In the photos below the students used my Chinese Dragon paper punch. Paper punches are a great motivational tool, and the dragon is the most popular of all that I have.
By the way, the students that made these images were about eleven years old.
I like the way the relationship between the dragons changes when the flexagon flexes.
Another tool that makes a big hit with students is Crayon Gel Markers. These markers take about 15 seconds to fully show up on the paper, thus adding a bit a magic to the process of decorating.
I also use some of the Crayon colored pencils. Only some of them work well on black paper. I used to be able to find Crayona FX (?) pencils that worked on black paper, but I haven’t seen them around for awhile.
I have to say that that only reason that I felt comfortable teaching this structure to these students is that I knew I would be working with small groups. I don’t think that I had more than 10 or 12 students in each class. The fact is, the folding for this structure is so specific, that I doubt I could successfully teach it to large classes. But I think it would be a great project to teach to home schoolers, or in an after school art class.
The hexagon below has a completely different look when it’s flexed.
The middle circle totally changes, and that white line becomes a whole different thing, too.
These were so much fun to teach. It’s a real pleasure to watch the expressions on the students’ faces when they see their own design be transformed when the hexagon flexes. That’ s my favorite part of the process, too.
November 23, 2011
After posting about Hexagaon-Flexagons on November 10 and November 16, I started working on making a template for teaching this tricky paper invention. Even though this structure is well covered on the net, what I want to add to the mix is something to make the folding easier.
When I’ve taught this structure the part that people have the hardest time with is creating precise folds. I made the instruction sheet above because it provides a way to create score lines so that the folding is easier.
Scoring is PRESSING lines onto paper, so to help facilitate folding. If a score line is firmly pressed into paper, it will fold easily on the score line. A pen that has no ink in it, or a paper clip, both make good scoring tools, as they will make a thin line. Bookbinders use bonefolders for scoring, but for this template I prefer a paper clip because it makes a thinner score line.
Here’s a picture of my daughter’s hand scoring my template. The template is on a firm but not hard surface: the surface ideally should have a bit of ‘give” so that it can be pressed into. (A stack of newspapers or a catalogue works well.) Place the ruler on the indicated line, holding it securing in place, then run the edge of the paper clip along the edge of the ruler. Press firmly, but not too hard, as you don’t want to rip through the paper. If you look closely at the image above you can see the the score lines that have already been pressed into the paper.
That’s about all I have to say for now. Hopefully the instruction sheet above clear enough to follow. If you want to print out template without the instructions, this is the a link to my non-annotated hexagon-flexagon .
And for some more inspiration, here’s a hexagon-flexagon decorated by Michele Gannon:
Now, here it is again, flexing….
….to next reveal the design that was formerly tucked inside:
addendum: Here are a couple of links to another person’s take on the hexagon-flexagon: http://plbrown.blogspot.com/2011/03/amazing-trihexaflexagon.html and http://plbrown.blogspot.com/2011/12/art-math-magic-its-trihexaflexagon.html
Addendum 3/12/2017: just came across another great flexagon resource! http://www.puzzles.com/hexaflexagon/activities.html