A non-math look at math shapes


I love the cool stuff Miss Cellania (she of Neatorama and mental_floss) comes up with. This study of weird shapes and their real-world applications is no exception.

What mathematicians call a hyperboloid of one sheet is a really cool structure that is made up of many (actually an infinite number) of perfectly straight lines that look to us like a curved structure. First, imagine that you have a cube. Stand it on one of its corners and spin it like a top, then look at it from the side -the sides seem to be curved, but you know they aren't. Now, take a handful of uncooked spaghetti noodles. Use two hands, and twist the strands loosely. It forms the shape of a hyperboloid structure, which looks like a cooling tower at a nuclear reactor. All the spaghetti noodles are still straight, but the shape of the handful is curved. In architecture, this idea enables builders to produce curved structures by using straight line supports.