Gently, precariously, one by one, stones perch upon stones, rising above the ground in seemingly gravity-defying towers. In settings both urban and wild, the art of rock stacking can be practiced on a scale from miniature to grandiose with some of nature’s most basic and ubiquitous materials — ordinary rocks!
The simplicity of materials is one of the great appeals of rock stacking. No support materials like glue or wire are used, just the rocks themselves. And the stack or sculpture you create can be as simple or complex as you like.
But how can the rock stacks stand up if nothing’s holding them together? The answer lies in the science of gravity.
The trick to getting an object to stand up without falling over is to keep its center of gravity directly over its base. Move the center of gravity away from the base, and the object falls down.
So if you start with a wide, solid stone as your base, you’ve got a good foundation for a successful rock stack. As you add each additional rock, go slowly. Each new rock adds mass and pressure to the stack as a whole, thus affecting the whole stack’s center of gravity.
When you add a rock to your stack, try it in a few different positions to see how it will best fit with the entire stack. How can you align this individual rock’s center of gravity with that of the stack?
Try stacking rocks of similar shapes from small to large for a pure balance column. Or mix rocks of different shapes and sizes for a freestyle sculpture. Try turning some rocks on their sides to achieve a more difficult balance and a more stunning visual illusion.
Whether you undertake rock stacking as a devotional practice, fun hobby, artistic expression or scientific experiment, let us know! Share photos of your stacks with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb and see a stack or two of our own.
Explorit Science Center invites you to continue exploring the intersections of art and science in its upcoming exhibition “Beautiful World: Art and Science,” opening March 25. Challenging perceptions of what art and science are and seeking the places in our world where they collide is the goal of this exhibition.
“Beautiful World” will be highly interactive with many opportunities to express and display your creativity and discover the beauty of the world around us in a whole new way by delving into the science behind it.
Explorit’s coming events:
* Football and Farm Tools February: Each weekend in February from 1 to 5 p.m., Explorit will feature a special football or farm-themed activity for visitors, free with paid admission to the museum. This weekend, visitors will create a paper roll tractor; next weekend, they’ll make a crop-dusting airplane.
* Presidents Day: Explorit’s exhibit will be open from 1 to 5 p.m.
— Explorit Science Center is at 3141 Fifth St. in Davis. For more information, call 530-756-0191 or visit www.explorit.org