In 1975 Martin Newell, computer graphics researcher at the University of Utah, created the Utah Teapot or Newell teapot, a mathematical model of an ordinary teapot of fairly simple shape which became a standard reference object, and something of an "in-joke", in the computer graphics community.
"Versions of the teapot model, or sample scenes containing it, are distributed with or freely available for nearly every current rendering and modelling program and even many graphic API, including AutoCAD, Houdini, Lightwave 3D, modo, POV-Ray, 3D Studio Max, and the APIs OpenGL and Direct3D. Some RenderMan-compliant renderers support the teapot as a built-in geometry by calling RiGeometry("teapot", RI_NULL). Along with the expected cubes and spheres, the GLUT library even provides the function glutSolidTeapot() as a graphics primitive, as does its Direct3D counterpart D3DX (D3DXCreateTeapot()). Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard also include the teapot as part of Quartz Composer, Leopard's teapot supports bump mapping. BeOS included a small demo of a rotating 3D teapot, intended to show off the platform's multimedia facilities. Teapot scenes are commonly used for renderer self-tests and benchmarks. In particular, the Teapot in a stadium benchmark and problem concern the difficulty of rendering a scene with drastically different geometrical density and scale of data in various parts of the scene.
"With the advent first of computer generated short films, and then of full length feature films, it has become something of an in-joke to hide a Utah teapot somewhere in one of the film's scenes. For example, in the movie Toy Story the Utah teapot appears in a short tea-party scene. The Utah teapot sometimes appears in the "Pipes" screensaver shipped with Microsoft Windows, but only in versions prior to Windows XP, and has been included in the "polyhedra" Xscreensaver hack since 2008. The teapot also appears in The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror VI in which Homer discovers the "third dimension".
"One famous ray-traced image (by Jim Arvo and Dave Kirk, from their 1987 SIGGRAPH paper "Fast Ray Tracing by Ray Classification") shows six stone columns, five of which are surmounted by the platonic solids (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron) – and the sixth column has a teapot. The image is titled "The Six Platonic Solids" – which has led some people to call the teapot a "Teapotahedron". This image appeared on the covers of several books and journals. Jim Blinn (in one of his "Project Mathematics!" videos) proves an amusing (but trivial) version of the Pythagorean theorem: Construct a (2D) teapot on each side of a right triangle and the area of the teapot on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the areas of the teapots on the other two sides" (Wikipedia article on Utah teapot, accessed 01-07-2010).