I’m not really one for collecting things. The fact that I move around a lot twinned with the pathetic size of British homes, doesn’t square well with building up much of anything. I finally dumped all my CDs last summer; I give away my books when I’m done with them. Plus, I always felt that collecting things was for people with more money than they knew what to do with.
Nevertheless, my current bedroom is as anonymous as a hotel room, and so I thought I should do what every self-repecting gentleman scholar did in times gone by: build myself a cabinet of curiosities. As the name suggests, this is a collection of weird and wonderful oddities, of a scientific bent.
A gomboc (to use its web-friendly spelling) is a mathematical puzzle made real. Wikipedia sums it as:
a convex three-dimensional homogeneous body which, when resting on a flat surface, has just one stable and one unstable point of equilibrium. Its existence was conjectured by Russian mathematician Vladimir Arnold in 1995 and proven in 2006 by Hungarian scientists Gábor Domokos and Péter Várkonyi.
What does that mean? Like the famous Weebles, a gomboc will always return to the same position, righting itself when turned over. Unlike a weeble though, the gomboc is not weighted, and relies upon its shape to achieve self-righting. There are many different solutions to the mathematical puzzle, giving rise to many different shapes of gomboc, but all are very nearly (mathematically) spherical and must be machined to tolereances of up to a hundredth of a millimetre. You can buy them here from the very man who solved the puzzle of their existence. Domokos is no fool, so he marketed gombocs as luxury items for high-end clients. But the price has fallen in recent years, and a line of smaller mini-gombocs released to capture the lower market. So I finally bought one. It arrived today!
Even though it’s only a “mini-gomboc”, it’s a lot bigger than I expected.
It’s very pretty, very heavy, and I almost understand the math behind it. Which makes it a great addition to a cabinet of curiosities! All of which is no good without some video footage – until I get mine up you’ll have to suffice with this promo video.
Finally, just in case you though such a thing was useless: some tortoises have evolved shells in the shape of gombocs to ensure they get back onto their feet if rolled over. Cool! Perhaps I’ll paint little tortoise legs onto mine, so long as the coat of paint is less than 0.01mm thick.
So what’s next? Any suggestions for cool things to add to my growing collection?