The Self-Righting Object Answered
The Gomboc is a "mono-monostatic" object -- a three-dimensional object that purely by dint of its geometry has only one possible way to balance upright.
The challenge intrigued two scientists, Gabor Domokos and Peter Varkonyi, both of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. They spent a few years doing the math, and it seemed as if a mono-monostatic object could, in fact, exist. They began looking to see if they could find a naturally occurring example; at one point, Domokos was so obsessed that he spent hours testing 2,000 pebbles on a beach to see if they could right themselves. (None could.)
After several more years of scratching their heads, they finally hit upon a shape that looked promising. They designed it on a computer, and when it came back from the manufacturer, they nervously tipped it over, wondering if all their work would be for naught. Nope: the Gomboc performed perfectly. "It's a very nice mathematical problem because you can hold the proof in your hands, and it's quite beautiful," Varkonyi says.
It's apparently similar to the shape of tortoise and beetle shells, explaining why these creatures can actually flip themselves back over.