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Mathematics and Tensegrity

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Figure 9.  Super stable tensegritiesClick to Enlarge Image

Tensegrity, a coined word describing a structure that retains its integrity under tension, is a concept developed by the American sculptor, Kenneth Snelson. The wonder and beauty of Snelson's sculptures surely lie in their three-dimensional nature. But these assemblies also pose interesting and difficult questions for mathematicians. Mathematically, what is a tensgrity? Why is it stable? Can tensegrities be classified or listed? The authors' recent work has aimed to find a proper three-dimensional generalization for tensegrities. Using the mathematical tools of group theory and representation theory, coupled with the powerful graphic and computational capabilities of computers, they have drawn up a complete catalogue of tensegrities with certain prescribed types of stability and symmetry, including some that have never been seen before.

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