Seth Fraden, a physics professor at Brandeis, wrote to share an interesting link between research in his field and Tara Donovan's work.
"I first learned of Tara Donovan's work when I saw Pins at the ICA in Boston last year and was struck by the resemblance to my research field of the physics of granular matter. A community of physicists are interested in the properties of piles of grains - round, like sand, or elongated, like pins. These materials behave like fluids (think of avalanches), or solids (like Ms. Donovan's Pins) depending on applied stress and the degree of elongation. Sand dunes typically have an angle of repose of about 30 degrees - if you try to make a steeper angle then the sand avalanches. But Ms. Donovan's pins have an angle of repose exceeding ninety degrees - you can make overhangs if the pins have a length to diameter ratio exceeding 40. No one knows why the angle of repose depends on aspect ratio. So out of curiosity, as well as for practical reasons we are motivated to develop theories to explain these properties. I bring this to your attention as you may be curious to learn of this connection between science and art.
The candy Jujubes are among the materials we study:
As are toothpicks:
Here's a link to some videos showing the research.