Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A virtual Galton quincunx

In The Truthful Art I describe the Galton quincunx, a fun device to explain basic probability and distributions. There are plenty of video demonstrations of how it works; here's one:

Some people have even designed 3D animations of it and I got curious whether I could do one myself using Autodesk Maya's gravity fields (the little arrow on the animation below) and rigid body capabilities. It turns out it works!—with some glitches, and with limitations due to each computer's processing power. In my case, the falling spheres began producing a normal distribution, but once more than five or six were on screen, weird things started to happen and the computer began running really slowly:

3D animation is fun; I used to teach a class about it and I'm hoping I'll be able to resume doing at some point!