Monday, August 06, 2007

Lazyweb Request: What the heck is this thing called??!?!

Update: Thanks a bunch to Betsy Weber for solving this ever-so perplexing problem I had. As it turns out this shape is called a hypotrochoid (and the tool used to create it is a Spirograph.

Well, well. My first official LazyWeb-addressed post. Don’t I feel special…

I’m trying to simulate electrons orbiting around the nucleus of an atom. I remembered this stencil I got many years ago that draws shapes comparable to what I want the orbit path to look like. Now I need to find out if there’s an existing programmatical function out there on the Internets to replicate an object moving in this shape. But in order to do that, I need to find out what the heck this thing is called. I’ve searched for at least an hour online trying to think of possible names this shape might be called—ellipsogram, septellipse, gyrogram, parabolic septagram, hyperbolic septagram, etc. — and haven’t found anything even remotely close. The closest thing I could find that may or may not be on the right track is Euclidean Geometry (found by way of parabolic geometry), though I wouldn’t know, as advanced mathematics is far beyond by comprehension — I didn’t take Calculus or Finite Math in high school and haven’t had any formal education on the subject since.

What are these shapes called?

If I had to guess, I’d say the name for it begins with ‘gyro-’ (which means rotation in Greek), and it might have ‘hepta’ or ‘septa’ in the name too, to indicate the seven cusps it has, although this is complete speculation.

This shape appears to be made up of 7 identical parabolas (though technically I’m not sure if you could call them that because they start curving inwards at a certain point, and typically parabolas don’t do that).

What is this shape called?

Anyone have any idea what this seven-“pointed” flower/star-like shape are called? I’m sure there’re plenty of other people who know a lot more than me when it comes to this stuff, and have even formally studied it in University at one point or another.

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