Saturday, June 3, 2017

Waxing Parabolic

Would it really kill someone to open a coffeeshop with this kind of architecture? Is that so much to ask? When was it decided that the parabolic element, inspired by the Space Age, was passé? As if we'd moved on, just because space flight became normal.

 Even when we're ignoring the astronauts, the parabola is very much a part of our earth-bound lives! The parabola is the natural shape any projectile along the earth surface takes, because gravity. And other physics things I'm not smart enough to explain.Consider that old earth game, which is, beyond dispute, the greatest game---baseball. Parabolas abound! From the pitcher to the batter, to the guy running in the outfield to make a catch, if he's doing it right. (According to research in environmental psychology, which I read about in this blog post about Cardinals baseball, guest-authored by two university professors, Drs. Bhatia and Chura, who are baseball fans).

The parabola can even figure into our romantic longings and philosophical musings. Stealing again from this same blog post, Thoreau wrote of how he took his daily walk through the woods in the shape of a parabola "opening westward", apparently preferring the parabolic path as a "perfect middle between opposing cultural forces" and symbolizing "not only the type of beauty he wished his walks to have, but the shaping and altering effects he wished his life to have." (Quoting Bhatia and Chura here.) Wow! The parabola can do all that?!

Even if you eschew all that frou-frou, the parabola figures into our satellite dishes, our clean energy wind turbines, and other stuff I'm too lazy to look up. So it's just as deserving as ever to be a motif shaping and altering our banks, gas stations, cafes and coffee shops! So let's bring it back. Let our architecture reflect the trajectories of our meager but fervent little lives --- the hopeful rise of the curving arc....falling back to earth again......or, in the case of the bouncing ball, a series of repeating but diminishing parabolas. On a more optimistic note, once again plundering the baseball scholars, NASA calls the parabolic path that comets trace around the sun an "escape orbit" , that can be traveled forever. And it has been said  (by Bhatia and Chura) that the arms of the open-ended parabola, "reach toward infinity."

I think I've made my case, but before we move on, take a gape at that "Ships" sign in the photo..... How can you beat that?  You can't! Tell me who doesn't want to drive up to a stunning piece of signery that looks like it's about to blast off? No one, that's who! What kind of a world do we live in where we toss out such fun, energetic designs and send em straight to the garbage heap? I ask you. 


  1. Parabola's are a tough build. The formula is so precise that most attempts fall short.
    Close...but not exactly accurate. Then, trying to combine coffee with parabola's gets even trickier. There is a coffee shop under the Arch in St. Louis. But plotting the coordinates of the Arch reveal that it is not a true parabola. The same for the coffee that can be obtained 'neath the twin golden arches on every other corner of the world. Again...not true parabolas. I think that It is probably so much easier to brew up a good cup of coffee than it is to construct a true, mathematically accurate parabola that most people won't care. If the joe is fair, the math don't care.

  2. Yes, this is true. The coffee is the thing! I don't need it to be a true parabola. It can be a catenary, like the St.Louis arch, and I won't tell. I'm not the geometry police!

  3. I'll take an arch anyway I can get it.

  4. Thank goodness there doesn't seem to be a presence of geometry police, anymore. Can't imagine living in the times of Pythagoras, Euclid and their squad.
    I used to tote my slide rule, protractor and compass around whenever I went out in search of a good coffee shop...just in case. Postulates...propositions...coordinates...NOPE!! Not no more.

  5. Yes, those were dark times, when Pythagoras, Euclid et. al walked the earth. Glad you've been able to ditch the math tools. Stay free, my friend!

  6. Yes! You have said everything I've been wanting for years! I hope some architect comes along your blog and brings parabolas back!!! Bravo!