Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Contrived: Sierpinski's Reflection

            In order to produce this image, I stacked four silver Christmas ornaments on top of one another, in the form of a pyramid.  I then shone a white light through one of the gaps in the structure, which resulted in the fractal that can be seen within the ornaments, known as Sierpinski’s Triangle.  Because of the opaque and shiny surfaces, the light that I shone passed through the aperture; it is reflected back in varying colors, as seen here where the colors white, gold, and black exist harmoniously.  The gold was the result of light reflecting off of my kitchen counter, which has a sepia tone with occasional flecks of gold.  The black was due to the areas where the light didn’t reach, and serves as a good outline for the fractal.  Reflection occurs when the electrons within an object vibrate at a different frequency than that of an incoming ray of light.  The ray of light causes the electrons to vibrate briefly and with large amplitudes, which then release the energy in the form of another ray.  With this complex arrangement of spherical convex mirrors, light was bouncing to and fro, creating an infinitesimally intricate pattern.  As you can see, the fractal is formed of an infinite number of triangles, which due to the constant reflection of the four mirrors, is possible to recreate.  This image perfectly demonstrates the beauty of math blossoming in the land of physics.

If you'd like to see another picture of Sierpinski's Triangle, click here

I would like to mention that my inspiration came from 7th grade math and 9th grade geometry class!


  1. I really enjoyed reading about your picture...it is very interesting and cool! Great Job!

  2. Fractals are fascinating to me. If you haven't seen the PBS special about them, you should search for it.

    I love to see pictures of fractals, especially ones like this with a great explanation behind it. You did an excellent job of describing the interaction of the light with the objects.

    Isn't it fun to see where math can be applied to the real world through physics? Excellent job!

  3. Thank you Puja and J. Bowie, I really appreciate your positive comments. I would also like to add that it is so fun seeing fractals in the places where you least expect them!

  4. This is a truly fascinating picture. That it was constructed from something as simple as a few Christmas ornaments demonstrates the ubiquity of math and physics in our lives.

    I found it surprising that all the ornaments were silver. In the photo, there are two prominent triangular reflections that are colored gold and sepia. I'm wondering what causes this coloration. Do you have any ideas?

  5. I am not completely sure why the white light transformed into gold, but I am playing with a few speculations. My first is that white light may react differently than normal, yellow light. Perhaps it is the light bulb. My other option is that I had taken this photograph in my kitchen, with which there are many white lights. Any number of things could have happened, but I will be sure to keep working on this anomaly until I find an answer. Than you for this challenging question!

  6. I now do believe that after recreating the photo, my granite countertop seems to be the culprit. It has a sepia color so when light reflected off of it, it produced a gold and sepia coloring in the image. Location seems to be quite important.

  7. What a creative and original photo, I absolutely love it!
    Your explanation is very thorough and I am glad that you solved the mystery of the gold color!
    It is always important to make connections with a particular subject and phenomena occurring in everyday life. Your idea about connecting geometry with physics AND art is just marvelous!
    Once again I thank you for being a leader and showing us all that learning is a very rewarding journey!

  8. Thank you for the compliments; I am really glad that you like the photo!

  9. like in the prism.. when a light strikes to the surface of the prism..it produces a rainbow colors

  10. i like the way you set the ornaments which leads to produced an amazing image.