Math Monday: Sierpinski Tetrahedron

FEBRUARY 22, 2010

A classic 3D fractal is the Sierpinski tetrahedron, which is a tetrahedron of tetrahedra of tetrahedra, etc. This fifth-order model is about 8.5 inches along its edges. It is made from nylon by selective laser sintering. If you have access to additive fabrication machines, you can make your own copy of it using the stl file available here.

The Sierpinski tetrahedron is so elegant that it has inspired many people to construct it in many materials. Alexander Graham Bell made giant kites with wood frames of this form. I love this geekly romantic photo of him kissing his wife in one.

Others have made this structure using materials as diverse as soda straws and steel. Above is a ten foot tall flaming straw

version by Wayne Tousignant, Darren Stanley, and Thomas MacKay.

And above is a 22 foot tall sculpture Bat Country by Gwen Fisher and Paul Brown, made of 384 aluminum baseball bats bolted together. Why not see what materials you can use to make your own Sierpinski tetrahedron?

This article first appeared on Make: Online, February 22, 2010.

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