3D Printing

A Hypnotic 3D Printed Zoetrope Inspired by Nature's Sacred Geometry

Objectively speaking, there is absolutely no 3D printed art that is better than a 3D printed zoetrope.  This fact was first proven (to me, at least) by Nervous System, which 3D printed some elaborate and hypnotic zoetropes last year.  I wanted one of them, but the design studio refused to make them for me free of charge! Fortunately, Pier 9‘s 2014 artist-in-residence John Edmark has outlined an Instructable for me to create my own!

Using the occult-ish mathematics of sacred geometry, Edmark has 3D printed a sculpture that, when spinning at 550 RPMs and filmed at 24 frames-per-second with a fast shutter speed, creates a rhythmic animation.  He writes, “The rotation speed is carefully synchronized to the camera’s frame rate so that one frame of video is captured every time the sculpture turns [~137.5º—the golden angle]. Each petal on the sculpture is placed at a unique distance from the top-center of the form. If you follow what appears to be a single petal as it works its way out and down the sculpture, what you are actually seeing is all the petals on the sculpture in the order of their respective distances from the top-center.”

The shape that Edmark has designed in Rhino, with Python scripting, is the mathematical ideal of a shape actually found in nature.  According to the artist, his design uses a similar leaf ordering as found on pine cones, pineapples, and many other plants, fruits, and flowers.  Each leaf, he explains, is “137.5º around the core from the previous leaf. 137.5º”, reflecting the golden angle and ratio behind spirals.

As fun and mysterious as all of nature’s math is, the most interesting part of his project, to me, is that his animation mimics the growth of spirals structures in nature. Edmark writes, “So when I animate these sculptures by spinning them with a strobe light (or video camera) I am, in a sense, recreating the process that I used to make them in the first place.” He adds that nature isn’t really quite as symmetrical as his work, however, using a wobbly artichoke as an example.

To me, this is what makes nature perfect in the first place.  If we’d been born into a perfectly symmetrical universe, there might be no action, no happenings to cause things to wobble.  We might be living in a frozen state of perfect equilibrium and, therefore, would have no difference with which to compare our experiences.  There’d be no perception because there’d be no change.  Put another way: if you were stranded on a desert island with only one flower to look at, would you prefer a flower that was perfectly symmetrical or one that was just a tiny, bit imperfect?

To learn how to build your own Zoetrope, follow the steps on Edmark’s Instructable. To follow one man’s descent into the mathematical enigma of nature’s endless patterns, watch Darren Aronofsky’s Pi.