What’s in the Logo? That Which We Call a Rhombic Hexecontahedron

May 19, 2009
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Eric Weisstein
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Every aspect of Wolfram|Alpha has been thought through in great detail. Its logo is no exception.

As a tip of the hat to the vast and powerful computational engine that powers Wolfram|Alpha, a natural place to start brainstorming for an appropriate logo was in Mathematica itself. And this is where I, geometry enthusiast and the developer of the PolyhedronData computational data collection, came into the picture.

As many of you may know, Mathematica‘s logo is a three-dimensional polyhedron affectionately called “Spikey.” In its original (Version 1) form, Spikey consisted of the spiked solid obtained from an icosahedron (the regular 20-faced solid that is one of the five Platonic solids) with regular tetrahedra (triangular pyramids) affixed to its faces.

Mathematica Version 1 Spikey

More elaborate forms of Spikey were used in each subsequent version of Mathematica. The current Spikey is an embellishment of a so-called hyperbolic dodecahedron (basically, a regular dodecahedron whose faces become special curved surfaces according to fixed mathematical rules). For a very interesting account of how the current-generation Spikey was created, see the fascinating Wolfram Blog post by Michael Trott.

Mathematica Version 7 Spikey

For Wolfram|Alpha, we wanted a simple yet elegant polyhedral logo that harked back to Spikey (yet retained its own intrinsic uniqueness), was geometrically interesting, and was visually attractive. We considered hundreds of possibilities, including many from my rather extensive collections of polyhedra on MathWorld and PolyhedronData. After rejecting many candidates, we finally settled on the attractive solid known as the rhombic hexecontahedron (“rhombic” refers to the fact that the faces of the solid consist of rhombi, while “hexecontahedron” is a word derived from the Greek, which simply means “60-faced solid”).

Wolfram|Alpha Logo

The rhombic hexecontahedron is a polyhedron that can be obtained as one of the 227 “fully supported” rhombic triacontahedron stellations. (For more details on the rhombic triacontahedron and the process of stellation, the reader is referred to MathWorld). It turns out that this solid has a number of very interesting mathematical properties, including several relations to the famous golden ratio. To explore some of the solid’s properties, see Sándor Kabai’s “Inside the Rhombic Hexecontahedron” example at the Wolfram Demonstrations Project. Rather surprisingly, this solid is actually inferred to exist in nature as the central core of a quasicrystal aggregate of Al6Li3Cu produced by slow solidification.

Of course, the real fun of Wolfram|Alpha is not what’s in its name or its logo, but rather in what it can do. My colleagues and I have been working very hard for nearly three years to make sure that it includes many interesting and useful things, one small part of which (as you might expect) is the ability to compute and display properties and images of many polyhedra (not to mention a few other mathematical objects).

With so much in the universe left to compute, we know there are years of refinements, additions, and enhancements that will follow the initial release of Wolfram|Alpha. So, as the site continues to grow and move forward, it’s likely that its logo will continue to reflect this growing sophistication in some small measure. Which I think is a nice touch. Even though the site would be just as sweet under any other logo.

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33 Comments

cool! never thought it before :)

Posted by Za3mOn May 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

The logo comes from within the software? So in one sense its contributing to itself :o

Posted by lunxer May 19, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Can WA call up the screens or a snapshot of each screen in your control room?

Posted by Brian Gilbert May 19, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Just great. Myself, I couldn’t relate better to any other logos out there. :)

Perhaps some form of animated hiper-hexecontahedron projections??

Posted by Nicolau Werneck May 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm

http://www71.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=wolframalpha+logo

Has a strange skeleton graph though…

Posted by Tueksta May 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Yes, this was a transposition bug in the data sources. Already fixed and should make it onto the live servers in the next push. (The skeleton is actually the DeltoidalHexecontahedralGraph; see MathWorld)

    Posted by EricW May 20, 2009 at 4:46 pm

      The same skeleton error is present in Mathematica itself. I guess that will be fixed as well?

      Posted by geo3rge May 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm

        Yes; actually was fixed in head branch sources months ago (but didn’t quite make it into the shipping version)

        Posted by EricW May 20, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Easily my favorite hexecontahedron :D

Posted by Jeremy May 19, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Not mere “rhombi” but “golden rhombi”! As in “the goose that laid the golden . . . “

Posted by mikcooke May 19, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I like the quote “The Logo comes from within the software.” Very well said

Posted by Romeoiv May 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm

What Wolfram Alpha related searches are there regarding this fascinating logo?

Posted by Jeff Z May 19, 2009 at 7:49 pm

i like the first one

Posted by replica handbags Wholesale May 19, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I have seen a lot of hex’s on the internet but this hex is the most impressive of all that I have ever googled across. If I ever have a logo that is based on science, I hope it can live up to the power of a logo like that that is instilled by the power of Wolfram|Alpha’s mightiness. It is The Fuego of all that is fuego. To “El Fuego”.

Posted by Miro May 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm

I like the second one because of it’s quality.

Posted by Erfan Farzadtabar May 19, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Wolfram logo is lookng great can’t have knowledge on mathematica unable to understand how you people designed wolfram logo.

Posted by venkat May 19, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Those are obviously just first steps, otherwise I would say this search engine is as good as nothing.

Posted by Apostol Apostoloff May 19, 2009 at 11:26 pm

I forgot on 18, and then saw on google news, u should have send emails to users atleast who have subscribed to you !

Posted by Rajesh May 20, 2009 at 12:39 am

Is this a daily blog on WA in general, or should comments be on subject in the title at the head?

Posted by Brian Gilbert May 20, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Hi Brian,
    Comments on the blog can be general or specific to the post topic. Thanks!

    Posted by The PR Team May 20, 2009 at 9:26 am

@Jeff: The second logo – Mathematica Version 7 Spikey – fascinates me very much.

Posted by Loewenherz May 20, 2009 at 1:22 am

Nice Logo – i remeber working on this geometrical problem in school :)

Posted by Christian May 20, 2009 at 1:57 am

I searched for the President of Azerbaijan and the result was Bako Sahakyan. Please CHANGE that WRONG information. It should say Ilham Aliyev. Also add Azerbaijan to the country list.

Best,
Samira from Azerbaijan

Posted by Samira May 20, 2009 at 2:15 am

very complex mathematics to understand.. but anyways . it looks good

Posted by Abhi May 20, 2009 at 4:07 am

Thanx great for an new serach engine;)

Posted by Suchmaschinenoptimierung May 20, 2009 at 4:31 am

Great Post. Thanks.

Posted by MOTOTRBO DIGITAL May 20, 2009 at 4:54 am

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=president+of+azerbaijan

I dont understand this stupid result. The president of Azerbaijan is not correct. And “The Republic of Garabagh” doesn’t exist. Your system is not working correctly

Posted by Ali May 20, 2009 at 8:05 am

quisiera saber mas de este nuevo buscador y cuando estara disponible en español

Posted by Miguel May 20, 2009 at 9:46 am

It’s also got an eerie resemblance to the crystal which represents the all-seeing computer in the 1976 film ‘Logan’s Run’ – there’s something odd about that, especially when you’ve already referenced Hal the computer in ’2001′ when the system gets a bit overloaded…but perhaps it’s entirely appropriate…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WUUnc1M0TA

Posted by Graham Jeffery May 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I had to make one of those dodecahedron shapes out of construction paper in 6th grade… I thought THAT was hard to understand back then, now i see that the logo is WAY more complicated.. This site has a lot of effort and thinking put into it. Great quality website!!

Posted by Anna May May 22, 2009 at 1:52 am

amazing…thing happened this 18th may… thanks a ton….

Posted by Rajesh rana May 22, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I like the logo but the animation is very distracting especially when you are staring at the screen more than few seconds. It would be nice to click on it to stop the animation.

Great job though.

Posted by B. Sari May 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm