Math in the News
Mathematical Path Leads to a Novel Object That Rights Itself
January 4, 2008
In 1995, mathematician Vladimir Arnold suggested that it might be possible to create an object that, purely because of its geometry, has only one way to balance upright. He described it as a "mono-monostatic" object. Now, Gábor Domokos and Péter Várkonyi (both from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics), after a great deal of trial and error, have created just such an object.
Domokos and Várkonyi's creation is transparent piece of synthetic material that has a rounded, gently peaked, organic shape. When tipped, it rocks back and forth before coming to rest in its "standing" position. Dubbed a Gömböc, it confirms the mathematics that had posited the existence of an object having a single, stable point of equilibrium.
"It's a very nice mathematical problem because you can hold the proof in your hands and it's quite beautiful," Várkonyi told the New York Times.
Scientists suggest, however, that nature got there first. The Gömböc looks much like a turtle's or beetle's shell. "We discovered it with mathematics," Domokos noted, "but evolution got there first."
Source: New York Times Magazine, Dec. 9, 2007.