March 18, 2002  
Roll Out the Red Carpet On Sunday evening, some 70 million people in the United States will switch on their TV's to savor the fourhour extravaganza of intrigue, glamor, and drama that is the Academy Awards® ceremony. Up to 60 filmmakers will leave the sumptuous new Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles with a golden Oscar® in hand. The Oscar statuette was designed by MetroGoldwynMayer (MGM) art director Cedric Gibbons, and it was made by outofwork sculptor George Stanley for $500 back in 1927. The design depicts a knight holding a crusader's sword, standing on a reel of film with five spokes that signify the original branches of the Academy: actors, writers, directors, producers, and technicians. When the first Academy Awards ceremony took place in 1928, the statuette had no official name; it was nicknamed "the Academy statuette," "the golden trophy," or "the statue of merit." No one is certain how the nickname Oscar became popular, but here are the three most popular stories about its origins:


The Academy didn't officially adopt the name "Oscar" until 1939. Today, the name is synonymous
with achievement in the movie industry and the gold figure is a major icon in popular culture.
Learn About the Problem Math: The Oscar statuettes stand 34.3 cm (13.5 inches) tall, and each weighs about 3.8 kg (8.5 pounds). Between 50 and 60 statuettes are crafted each year. Each award is individually packed into a Styrofoam container slightly larger than a shoe box. Eight of these are then packed into a larger cardboard box, which is shipped from Chicago to the Academy offices in Beverly Hills via air express. Students can review basic skills using Destination Math and then solve various problems. (Destination Math requires a subscription. Get a free trial subscription.)
Chemistry: The original statuettes, which were cast in bronze and plated with 24karat gold, stood on a base of black marble. Over the years the materials have changed, and today the statuettes are made of britannium — an alloy of tin, copper, and antimony that is similar to pewter — and plated with four metals. Those four metals are copper, nickel, silver, and gold. First, the brittanium statuette receives a light copper electroplate, followed by heavy copper. Next, nickel plating is used to seal the pores of the metal. Third, the statuette is washed in silver plate, because gold adheres well to it. After further polishing, the statuette receives its final coat of 24karat gold. The following activities require Logal Express. Get a free trial subscription.



Think About the Problem Math: Here are a series of problems for your students to solve:
Chemistry: Ask students the following questions about the goldplating process:
Extending the Problem In honor of the Oscars, this week the Riverdeep Current has two articles on the movies for students:
Making sculptures: Students can read about the work of sculptor Helaman Ferguson in the Riverdeep Current archive article, "Marrying Math and Art." Ferguson has a Ph.D. in mathematics and he interprets mathematical principles through his works. Students may also read "The Art Angle," which discusses how paintings and sculpture can show mathematics in action. Further information about sculpture and electroplating is available at the following Web sites:

