Friday, 16 October 2009

Cutting up Doughnuts

An iced ring doughnut, sliced diagonallyA cool thing that I didn't know about doughnuts until someone pointed it out a few months back: no matter what proportions a doughnut has, there's always an angle that you can slice though it to produce a perfect pair of interlocking circles.

Someone mentioned this on sci.math, and pointed to "Doughnut Slicing", a webpage by John Banks and Jeff Brooks, and then, someone else pointed out that there was already a a Wikipedia article on it, under the name "Villarceau Circles" ... at which point I scooted off and tried to work the thing out from scratch, before reading anyone else's "spoilers". There's only a certain number of cool results like this, and if you read other people's work before you've had a crack at a problem yourself, that's an opportunity that you never get back.

Anyhow, it turns out that if a torus has major radius R (distance from central axis to centre of limb) and minor radius r (radius of solid limb), the magic angle A that you have to cut at to get to see the double-circle is simply

SIN A = r/R

Going back and looking at the other two webpages, it seems that, unless I missed it, the authors don't seem to have actually written that down explicitly anywhere (although they do seem to have included some more involved math).

So, one quickie download of GFA BASIC 32 (and some quickie trig) later, and the relationship's obviously right. One quick program run while my tea was cooking, generating a few hundred images of tori with radius ratios from zero to one, tilted by the appropriate angles, and I now have a sequence of pretty Villarceau images sitting on my harddrive that I'll probably string together as a YouTube animation at some point.

Villarceau Circles, Eric Baird 2009
Villarceau Circles, Eric Baird 2009
If you want to cut up a doughnut or bagel purchased at your local bakery to see the Villarceau circles, thread a thin stick or skewer all the way through through the central hole, and then tilt it to a maximum so that your pointy-stick is touching two different parts of the surface. That line gives you the plane that you need to cut along, and the two points where your stick touches the doughnut are the two points where the pair of circles intersect.

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