Posted by: justpeachie | November 2, 2008

the Disney of my youth

In the midst of what I’ll euphemize as “trick-or-treating” this past Halloween weekend, I noticed quite a few not-so-Snow-Whites, Little Barmaids, Alices in Wonderbras, and Bambis gone wild–and I found myself nostalgic for Disney as it once was, unadultered and in 2D. (Okay, detractors, please don’t bring up King Trident’s phallic decorations or the Lion King’s sex-in-the-clouds at this moment. I’m reminiscing!)

Of course, with happy memories to be recalled and homework to be avoided, I began surfing Google Image Search for Disney icons and came across this:

So I’ve never noticed before that the Epcot dome at Disney World is composed solely of tessellated triangles. Granted, I don’t visit Epcot that often, but its pictures are always floating around in one place or another (thanks to Disney PR), so you’d think it would have caught my eye—especially since the dome is so big, shiny, and distracting.

Many are already aware that the architectural design of various types of bridges relies heavily on triangles. This is due to the fact that triangles are the (structurally) strongest polygon. I always thought this was because the triangle, when placed on its base, could distribute all the pressure exerted on its top point across a much wider length on its base, thereby dissipating the stress placed on any one area. But I am wrong.

Apparently, the main reason the triangle is so strong is due to the rigidity of its angles—that is, it’s the only shape that can’t be squished out of shape. Since it only has three sides, each angle is necessarily kept rigid by its direct connections to the opposite side. Allow to me to illustrate: if we imagine that the vertices are mobile, like joints, then a square, for example, could easily be slanted into a rhombus. This doesn’t happen with triangles.

In the same vein of thought, it is also possible to use these triangles to substantially strengthen square/rectangular shapes, which are used often in construction. Here is an often seen example: a stronger barn door. As you can see, the square has been reinforced on its diagonal with an additional piece of wood, which transforms the original shape into two triangles. As we know, triangles are the strongest polygon, so this provides a significant additional support structure. After all, we can’t let those farm animals escape, lest Chicken Little also manages to grow up a bit too fast…



  1. That’s not the only interesting thing about the building. Ask Wikipedia about “Geodesic dome” and “Buckminster Fuller”. I’d post links, but last time I did that my comment didn’t get posted, probably vanishing into a spam bin somewhere…

  2. Anthony, I’m sorry the spambot ate your comment. I went and looked for it and I found it and de-spammed it. So now it has appeared.

    As for Buckminster Fuller, go to the library (or GoogleBooks or Amazon) and look at random pages of his book Synergetics. It’s truly weird.

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