Latest Issue of Science News


Surface Story

Inspired by spiral soap films, mathematicians zero in on a novel, economical, and infinite helix

Dip a flat wire ring into a basin of soapy water. The ring comes out spanned by a taut, iridescent soap film in the form of a thin disk. Its area is smaller than it would be if the surface had peaks and valleys, or even small wrinkles. A clinging soap film invariably settles into the shape that mathematicians call a minimal surface. They can also imagine minimal surfaces that don't exist in nature.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.