Learning about math patterns (voronoi especially!)

On Wednesday I took a staycation* day off of work to hang out with my partner, relax, and also check out an exhibit at the Franklin Institute on mathematical patterns in nature since I won tickets through a Yelp giveaway.

I would recommend it, if you’re a member already and are only spending an extra $5 to go, as it’s not a big exhibit (but the maze is really fun!). It took us about 20 minutes to do the entire exhibit, and we’re fairly dedicated as far as museum go-ers go.


The exhibit is definitely an excuse to have a cool mirror maze as a central feature, but the rest of the interactives focused on three major patterns: spiral, golden ratio, fractal branching and voronoi. The creators of the exhibit have a nice read on each of these patterns.

Fractal branching reminded me of the really great Strange Loop talk, “Practical Fractals in Space,” so that was fun, and of course spirals and golden ratios felt a bit old hat.

But voronoi patterns!! How interesting.

A voronoi pattern is where defined areas exist such that the generating point in an area (a polygon) is closest to that point than any other point. Whoaaaa. That’s it in my own words, but you can read what WolframAlpha has to say about it too. According to them, Voronoi diagrams are from “as early at 1644”!

I looked for a few online interactives so you can play with this and:

I still kiiinda want to make my own, so we’ll see 🙂 There’s obviously no lack of interesting examples!

You know what else is cool? The next day, THE NEXT DAY, at work, we were talking about tooltips on charts. Turns out you can use this math to make tooltips more useful, Victory Charts uses a Voronoi diagram (optionally) to place tooltips.

If you’re in Philly and want to check out the maze, it’s in town until September 4th.

* staycation: a vacation in which one does not leave town

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