Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Caroline from Charleston , SC. Caroline Wonders, “What is a rhombicosidodecahedron” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Caroline !

Do you enjoy making art? It’s so much fun! Many people like to draw and color pictures. It’s also exciting to try out different kinds of paint in art class. Some people like working art materials with their hands. Those people often prefer to make sculptures.

If you’ve ever used clay or Playdough, you know how much fun sculpture can be. People can turn a lump of clay into anything they imagine! Sometimes,  sculptors take on challenging projects. They might chip away at a rock to make monuments like Mount Rushmore. Others create sculptures out of ice. Sometimes, they make their artwork move, like in kinetic sculpture. Many sculptors even use math to form their works of art.

Wait, math? That’s right! Many people may not know it, but there’s a strong link between math and art. Particularly, many sculptors use geometry in their work. They need knowledge of lines, shapes, and angles to bring their ideas to life.

Some geometric shapes are more difficult to sculpt than others. Most people could shape clay into the form of a sphere. A cube or pyramid may be a bit more difficult. Sometimes, artists challenge themselves by attempting to create very complex shapes. This was common during the Renaissance. It was also a popular theme of much 20th Century art. One especially challenging geometric shape to sculpt is the rhombicosidodecahedron (pronounced “rom-bee-i-co-see-doe-dec-a-he- dron”).

Wow, that’s a long word! It’s also a very large shape. The rhombicosidodecahedron is a polyhedron. That’s a 3D solid made of flat shapes. A rhombicosidodecahedron is made of 20 triangles, 30 squares, and 12 pentagons. It’s a special type of polyhedron called an Archimedean solid. That means the sides of every triangle, square, and pentagon are equal in length. The rhombicosidodecahedron is one of only 13 Archimedean solids.  

Are you having a hard time picturing this structure in your mind? Start with a pentagon. Remember, that’s a five-sided shape. Now, imagine a square connected to each of the pentagon’s sides. In the space between each square, add a triangle. Now, attach a pentagon to the open side of each square. Keep repeating these steps, and you’ll end up with a rhombicosidodecahedron.

Is it still difficult to picture this shape? That’s okay! It’s one of the most complicated figures in geometry. That’s what makes it fun for sculptors to create. It’s a great challenge! During the Renaissance, many artists also thought of the rhombicosidodecahedron as a religious and philosophical symbol. Some used the Archimedean solids to represent our solar system.

Would you like to try making a rhombicosidodecahedron? It may take a few attempts to get it right! What other shapes would you attempt?


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