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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Going Round in Pedantic Circles

It's well known among pedants that spiral staircases aren't spirals at all, but helices. A spiral staircase, apart from not needing any stairs, would not take you through the "y" dimension, without which a staircase is pointless. You'd just go round in ever-decreasing circles, on a spiral staircase. In other words, and at the risk of labouring, straining or overstating the point, spiral staircases are badly named. And helical staircases, even when correctly designated, are a bit common.

That's why the new Moot House has a double-helix staircase.

You could say innovative architecture is in our DNA. Or possibly vice-versa.

4 comments :

  1. Does Helix have something to do with Felix the Cat? Perhaps his brother or sister?

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  2. Of course, if your spiral is a vertically-orientated one (i.e. your r-theta plane is vertical, rather than horizontal) then you COULD make a spriral staircase; but, unless you are good at walking upside down, it is best only to use the very small section of the spiral. For an Archimedian spiral (r = a + b theta), I would advocate using a part where theta varies by no more than pi/2 radians and choosing a to be larger than b.

    The resulting staircase would climb in a graceful arch, which could be either convex or concave depending on your choice of the range of values of theta.

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  3. PS. As a pedantic mathematician, I would like to suggest that it is more usual, when working in 3-D, to consider the x-y plane to be horizontal and for the vertical direction to be designated "z".

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  4. Stop plagiarising Leonardo da Vinci! He invented the double helix, long before Crick and Watson and that woman chemist everyone keeps forgetting (not you, Archdruid!), and had one built as a staircase at the Château de Chambord.

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