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Thursday, 12 April 2012

Professor Nishiyama: King of Science - The Mathematics of Egg Shape

I was delighted to see a comment on my Boomerang article by none other than Professor Yutaka Nishiyama. I like that I'm the kind of person who has a blog that attracts comments from Japanese professors. I was slightly less pleased that I'd made a second-rate joke about the Japanese language and he didn't pick up on it being a joke. I actually felt embarrassed about that. But I'm chuffed silly that he links to my article on his blog.

But it's Easter (well, it was) and I've had a bit of a run of egg-related posts. And guess who wrote a paper about the mathematics of eggs? None other than my favourite scientist: Professor Nishiyama.

Nishiyama has devised a mathematical formula (using the work of Descartes and Cassini) to describe the shape of eggs and their properties, such as how they roll on an inclined surface. As always, the paper is concise and very easy to read. The Professor also encourages you to carry out your own experimentation:

"I'd like for those readers who have until now had no interest in the shape of eggs to begin by confirming this experimentally."

Read the paper (in English) here:


1 comment:

  1. "Tama" is an interesting word. Its core meaning is "ball" but it has multiple related meanings, including "jewel", and as such is part of the compound "magatama" ('bent jewel') used to describe the comma-shaped beads of jade which were used as ritual objects in the Kofun period. A large magatama forms one of the Three Imperial Regalia, a subject I find endlessly fascinating - these are objects poised on the cusp between mythology and history. It's perhaps not surprising they are therefore rather secret.

    I digress. It's an interesting article but there a couple of questions it suggests. The egg has certain structural properties in addition to the dynamic ones Prof. Nishiyama tackles - it is very strong in compression along the major axis, but weak across it. I wonder if this has any evolutionary significance or if it is merely a side-effect of the evolved shape. And, does the non-homogeneous composition have any effect on the centre of gravity?

    Also lovely to see the word "infundibulum" in a context other than a Kurt Vonnegut story :)