Gigglebit: Hypnotic 3D-printed Fibonacci zoetrope sculptures

20 Jan 2015

Still from 'Fibonacci Zoetrope Sculptures' via Pier 9/Vimeo

With Gigglebit, we turn the spotlight on humorous and/or amazing content about science and tech, such as this footage of hypnotic rotating sculptures forged by man and influenced by nature.

Inventor, designer and artist John Edmark created a series of 3D-printed sculptures, many of which look like blooming plants – and all the more so when they are animated through the magic of mathematics and optical illusion.

In order to bring them to life, the sculptures rotate on a platform synchronised to a strobe light so that one flash occurs every time the object rotates 137.5 degrees. This precise measurement is taken from the ‘golden angle’, which is derived from the ‘golden ratio’ and has been discovered in nature to be the angle separating the petals in some flowers, such as sunflowers.

The petal-like formations on Edmark’s sculptures adhere to this rule, and the spiral arrangement follows the Fibonacci sequence. The ratio of successive Fibonnaci numbers is very close to the golden ratio and leaves, branches and petals have been found to grow in spirals in this very same way in nature.

Thanks to these exact measurements, the strobe light creates a zoetrope effect on the viewer, in which a rapid succession of images blur together to produce the illusion of motion.

‘Fibonacci zoetrope sculpture under strobe light’ video by Pier 9/Vimeo

To recreate this animation in the video below, Edmark did away with the strobe in favour of a very quick shutter speed of 1/4000th a second in order to freeze-frame the spinning sculpture.

‘Fibonacci Zoetrope Sculptures’ video by Pier 9/Vimeo

Edmark completed this work last summer as part of the Artist-in-Residence programme. You can watch more of his mind-bending sculpture in action on his Vimeo page or you can build a Fibonacci zoetrope sculpture of your very own using Edmark’s five-step how-to.