This project aims to create kinetic sculptures that
illustrate some scientific or mathematical
principle. Optimally, each sculpture will be
artistically viable without the technical meaning,
and simply becomes more interesting as its
meaning is appreciated.
The first effort is directed to illustrating chaotic
motion and aspects of chaos theory. The physical
sculpture devices would not exhibit esthetically interesting motion for
many choices of relative size, weight, and other design parameters. If I
had to build many variations of the device in order to determine a good
design, it would be costly in materials and time. To avoid this expense, I
developed a numerical simulation of the device. After experimenting with
the design parameters of the device until a satisfactory set has been
found, that specific device will be constructed and will be the physical
embodiment of the sculpture.
The animation of the numerical simulation is interesting to view without
building the physical device. In fact, I can demonstrate some aspects of
the motion better in the numerical simulation than with a physical model.
A view of the sculpture simulator screen. Click on the image to see a
larger size. Read about the computer science issues here.
The leftmost panel allows the user to start and stop the simulation and
shows information about how it is progressing. The center panel shows a
three-dimensional view of the sculpture. In this case, it is composed of
two wheels; one attached to a fixed freely-rotating axle, and the second
attached to a freely-rotating axle on the rim of the first wheel. The
wheels are heavier on one side than the other, so when they are pulled
from their resting position and released, gravity sets them in motion. One
of the primary physics principles I want to demonstrate is how such very
simple devices produce endlessly complex and fascinating motion.
The rightmost panel shows the motion of the sculpture in phase space.
The horizontal distance in the image represents the angular position of
the first wheel. The vertical position in the image represents the angular
velocity of the second wheel. The color of the ribbon represents the
angular position of the second wheel, and the width of the ribbon
represents the angular velocity of the first wheel. Using this
representation scheme, I can display all four quantities that determine
the state of the sculpture at any moment. When the sculpture was
started, the ribbon began near the right side of the panel in black. The
ribbon unfolded in time as the sculpture moved until I stopped it with the
ribbon at the upper part of the panel in red.
A simulator movie of the center panel shows the motion of the sculpture
in real time for the first one-hundred seconds of motion.
The first demonstration of a real, physical Chaotron is shown here.
A Chaotron kinetic sculpture built on the theme of Victorian steam engine
parts and with a fuller explanation is shown here.
Some useful information for those who want to build their own Chaotron
|Copyright 2008 James W. Wiggins. All rights reserved.
Header image: A frame from
the sculpture numerical
simulation movie. August,