Andrew's Science Log

Science notes – with experiments!

Catenary arch

with one comment

St Louis Gateway Arch

A catenary is the shape taken by a hanging chain (the word’s root is “chain”) and has a mathematical definition. Gravity accounts for the shape, kind of a squashed parabola. Inverted as an arch, it is a sturdy self-supporting structure like the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

One would use the catenary to build a smooth road for square wheels. Read this Science News article or check out the Square Wheels Exploratorium book to make your own. I’m building a wood-block arch from some scrap cypress, following the Exploratorium instructions, & will post pictures when I get there. The blanks are all set and just need some precision cutting on my vague table saw.


From the Exploratorium (arch behind illustrative heavy and light chains):



Written by Andrew Wells Douglass

9 March 2008 at 13:29

Posted in Physics

One Response

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  1. Cool, I love the bicycle with square wheels. Also, Alec and I were just playing with the upside-down catenary made out of blocks at the Exploratorium 2 weekends ago.


    11 March 2008 at 18:49

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