Anita Chowdry, John Baez and David Chudzicki

Bridges Lecture Series, St. Jerome's University

February 26, 2016

The Harmonograph

A harmonograph is a drawing machine powered by pendulums. It was first invented in the 1840s — the heyday of the industrial revolution, whose sensibilities are now celebrated by the "Steampunk" movement.

In this presentation, artist Anita Chowdry recounted her fascinating journey into this era, culminating in her creation of a two meter high harmonograph crafted from brass and steel: "The Iron Genie". Then, using computer simulations, mathematical physicist John Baez explored the underlying mathematics of the harmonograph, taking us on a trip into the fourth dimension and beyond. As time passes, the motion of the harmonograph traces out a curve in a multi-dimensional space. The picture it draws is just the two-dimensional "shadow" of this curve.

This presentation was enhanced by the creative output of a four-day workshop with University of Waterloo students at the department of Fine Arts, led by Anita Chowdry.

You can watch a video of our presentations here:

You can also see our talk slides, and use David Chudzicki's online harmonograph:

There's also a great video of how students at St. Jerome's built two harmonographs under Anita's direction:

Here are some other fun things to try:


© 2016 John Baez and Anita Chowdry