How Descartes Would Design a Yacht

Philosopher and mathematician René Descartes proposed some curious diagrams in 1644. A biologist looking at these shapes might think of living cells under a microscope:

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Source.

Compare these shapes to epidermal cells {in this case, the epidermal surface of lamprey larvae. Note that this image is from the wonderful Cell Image Library.)

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These designs, also known as “Voronoi diagrams,” have found useful applications in a wide range of fields, including medicine such as:

…finding the best location for a hospital based on the locations of surrounding residents can
be obtained by using weighted Voronoi diagrams.

So what does this have to do with designing yachts? Consider the stunning model design for the “Voronoi” super yacht, more than 125 meters long. This exceeds the expanse of the “Luna,” a $190 million yacht. From Fast Company’s Co.Design:

It looks like something MC Escher would make after downing three fingers of whisky, and Mother Nature likes it a lot: it shows up in dragonfly wings and giraffe fur, and it can also be used to represent disease outbreaks, forest fires, and the atomic charges of molecules.
Kim took a fancy to it after noticing it in his “epidermal cell membrane,” he tells Co.Design.

Besides the beauty, designer Hyun-Seok Kim said that these designs use the minimum amount of building material.

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What a fascinating application of mathematics, design and engineering inspired by nature!

Comments

  1. #1 MJ
    June 20, 2011

    *Mathematician* Rene Descartes? C’mon, throw us philosophers a bone. The Discourse on the Method doesn’t mark the beginning of the enlightenment because it introduces Cartesian coordinates…

  2. #2 Jeff
    June 20, 2011

    Point taken. You are absolutely correct – revision made Thank you for your comment, dear philosopher!

  3. #3 informania
    June 21, 2011

    Do I feel some primordial winds tickling my pineal gland?

    “Philosopher and mathematician” Rene Descartes? C’mon, throw us silly people a bone.

  4. #4 David Irving (no relation)
    June 21, 2011

    Someone was doing some very interesting work related to spatial data with Voronoi diagrams about 20 or so years ago. I wish I could remember a bit more about it but fortunately Google knows all