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Mega Menger: Building a Menger Sponge at MIT

Mega Menger: Building a Menger Sponge at MIT


If you take a cube and you cut it up into 27 smaller cubes and then after that you take out every cube on the face of the original cube and then the cube in the middle of the original cube you end up with 20 cubes left that kind of form a “frame” of the original cube; that’s a level 1 Menger Sponge. To make a level 2 Menger Sponge you repeat the process on every one of the 20 constituent cubes that you made from cutting up your original cube. So if you keep going you eventually make a three-dimensional fractal curve that has zero volume and infinite surface area. So that’s a Menger Sponge. Are Menger Sponge was part of a larger project called MegaMenger sponsored by the Queen Mary University of London and the idea was that 20 sites around the world would each build a level 3 Menger Sponge so that in theory we would have together built a level 4 Menger Sponge. And that’s the largest Menger Sponge thats ever been built out of business cards. So when we decided that we wanted to build this sculpture we thought that this was a great way to not just do it within our club, but also get the entire MIT community involved. We held club meetings, we held study breaks and we got a ton of people, from freshman to seniors to graduate students to faculty and staff, coming and folding this thing with us. The cool thing is, the Menger Sponge actually has an unexpected connection to MIT. One of the first, if not the first people to build this structure out of business cards was Dr. Jeannine Mosely who did her PhD at MIT and she’s currently this tremendously successful and prolific origami artist. It was almost 20 years ago that I learned how to make the business card cube from some verbal instructions. Initially I wasn’t particularly excited about the cube because its not that interesting of a shape. But after a while, my son who was seven, I taught him how to make the cubes and he was playing with them and I had two cubes that were seated side by side on a table and I was just looking at his cubes and I said, “Oh my God, look at the flaps! You can tuck them under each other, like this, and if you do you’ll end up with two linked cubes.” They are very firmly attached to one another and you can just add more and more cubes and build any structure that you can think of. Around this same time, the company that I was working for changed its name. And all my co- workers knew that I had been doing origami with business cards came by and gave me their old business cards. So I had a very large collection of business cards to work with. And someone was teasing me, “What are you going to build with all those cards?” And I said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll build a level 3 approximation to a Menger Sponge. I only need 48,000 cards to do that.” It took me ten years and I finished it in 2005. And since then a lot of people who’ve read about it have said, “Hey, I want to build one too!” But what we didn’t realize was how much work building a level 3 Menger Sponge would be. Once we started folding we were like, “Ooo, this is going to be super time-consuming and we clearly bit off more than we can chew.” So instead of building a full level 3 Menger Sponge we just built one of the rings that forms one of the faces. Which would be eight level 2’s and this would be only 25,000 business cards. We also heard recently from the worldwide MegaMenger Project that including us, when you combine everyones builds together built a level 4. And that’s absolutely insane in terms of the number of business cards, the number of man hours. And I think to be a part of that, we’re super excited. Why the Menger Sponge? I don’t know, there is just something about it that. . . everybody just seems captivated by it. And it’s important, I guess, when you set out to build something this big and you want to get hundreds of people to help the end goal needs to be something that inspires them and makes them persevere and keep going until its done.

Comments (31)

  1. I´ll see you in 3 years MIT !

  2. Me too but in 7 years I hope I can get in!

  3. When are you trying the level 5?

  4. Wow what a useless waste of time, very impressive

  5. Humans need to have a higher intelligence quotient on average….really. MIT discovered what I made as a Minecraft toy when I was 5….omg wat. Anyways, great Discovery guys! Though I might be a Mensa member, I'll join MIT if I have the passion for it after high school.

  6. Can anyone help me understand how a menger sponge has no volume and infinite surface area? I didn't understand the proof's for these I found on wikipedia. I was wondering if it could be spelled out for me in simpler terms.

  7. I thought MIT was known for meaningful work?

  8. Way to waste paper, nerds

  9. But…they failed, right? They only made one ring. So why is everybody still clapping like they succedeed in making level 3 cube (nevermind global level 4)?

  10. And what is the highest level menger spomge that anyone has made physically?

  11. geezz get a freaking life

  12. Ten years to build i lvl 3? wow … did it in less than two … and then I torched it for the fuck of it hahaha …  it actually made quite a nice structure afterwards … and the pictures were breathtaking … 8000 cubes burning from the inside out, 66.048 pieces of paper meticulously weaved together … all for a fleeting moment of beauty one lone summer eve … 

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/162894_479015129290_3656121_n.jpg?oh=633cef028a59e9c62b3487118c765b97&oe=56052CFD&__gda__=1439604995_5b32d695ed8855f2aeccb047f6c05459

    https://scontent-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xap1/v/t1.0-9/550339_10151395575179291_1527462057_n.jpg?oh=d7edf2b2121e485e37213d9614e3d833&oe=5603331A

    https://scontent-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfa1/v/t1.0-9/269271_10151395573754291_1506707224_n.jpg?oh=a350805772fdbab8a58bfbacb2185542&oe=55C35843

  13. Yes but…will it blend?

  14. There is such a thing as a 3D printer now.

  15. Sonobe units are better …. Because squares. The rectangular shape makes it seem not as grounded as a square because the menger sponge is not a rectangular form.

  16. I would have expected that the MIT students would build a machine to, at very least, fold the business cards. Since it is a repeating task with no changes at all.
    But maybe it been a social experiment…

  17. Level 4 Menger Sponge is 960000 business cards.

  18. Would've looked better if the printed images on the faces of the cubes had been inverted.

  19. Level 5 = 19,200,000 Business Cards

  20. We are working on STEP Data Exchange with ISO 10303 of Menger Sponge from Mandelbulber2. Soon we will have very large mechanical models for this system. Then we can 3D print.

  21. Very Good Friend;)

  22. Good Video 😉

  23. woooooow, amazing ^^

  24. At which level would it collapse under its own weight?

  25. we were like OOF,

    When I play Roblox I'm like OOF!

  26. Matt hecking Parker

    Edit: I see someone below beat me to it

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