Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pop Quiz: What is spherical and contains 32 panels, 20 of which are hexagons and 12 of which are pentagons, and the pentagons do not touch each other? This object has some interesting qualities - if it is squeezed and released it will spring back to its original shape, and it can spin very fast. And if it is propelled against a hard surface it will bounce. Give up yet? The answer is an icosahedron. Of course, we know it better as a Buckeyball (or Buckyball as it is sometimes spelled).

Buckeyball? Yes. Read on.

Buckyballs are those kids' toys that are made of plastic or sometimes wire. Everybody likes to pick them
up and touch them, but once you are holding one there isn’t much you can do with them in your hands. You can get them for about $29.99 in those upscale stores that sell toys for kids in Cambridge, or $19.99 anywhere else.

Buckyballs are also the common name of Neodymium magnets. Neodymium is a compound of iron and boron, and in its spherical form happe
ns to be about the strongest and most affordable type of rare-earth magnet. Each magnet has two opposing sides and when placed together you can make an infinite variety of shapes. You can buy a set of about 200 little magnets, and of course the price is $29.99 in those same stores.

Another name for a Buckyball is a Fullerine. In 1985 a scientist named Buckminster Fuller discovered this particular carbon molecule containing 60 atoms (a.k.a. Carbon 60 or C60). The molecular Buckeyballs came from meteors that crashed into the earth about 5 billion years ago. Turns out that what we have been kicking around the pitch every Sunday is an exact copy of the carbon molecule that is responsible for the origin of all life. Cool.
Soccer is life.

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