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Tessellations

November 12th, 2010 in Uncategori zed

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no gaps. To explain it in “plane” in mathematical

terms. And you’ll notice that the floor is covered with some tiles or marbles of di fferent shapes. That is a

A tessellation is simply is a set of figures that can cover a flat surface leaving

simpler terms – consider the flo or of your house. That is a flat surface – called a

good example of a “tessellation ”. The one difference here is that technically a and width so it’s like a floor that goes on forever.

plane is infinite in length

Of course, when we are talking (in fact, the word “tessellation

word “Tiling” is also commonly u sed to refer to “tessellations”.

about floors, the shapes used to cover it are mos tly rectangles or squares comes from the Latin word tessella – which me ans “small square”). The

There are different kinds of te ssellations – the ones of most interest are tes sellations created using polygons. If you use only on e kind of polygon to tile the entire plane – t hat’s called a “Regular Tessellation”

Regular Tessellations

As it turns out, there are only thr ee possible polygons that can be used here. The re are only three rules to be followed when doing a “regul ar tessellation” of a plane

The tessellation must cover a plane (or an infinite floor) without any gaps or a ny overlaps.

All the tiles must be the sam e shape and size and must be regular polygons (that means all sides are the same length)

Each vertex (the points whe re the corners of the tiles meet) should look the s ame

Of course, you would have gues sed that one is a square. What are the other two ? They are triangles and hexagons. Let me show you exa mples of these two here.

You may wonder why other sha pes won’t work. Let’s try with pentagons and see what shape we come up with. You can see that there is a gap and that’s not allowed.

So what’s unique to those 3 sha pes (triangle, square and hexagon)? As it turns out, the key here is that the internal angles of each of th ese three is an exact divisor of 360 (internal angl e of triangle is 60, that of

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square is 90, and for a hexago n is 120). The mathematics to explain this is a won’t look at it here

little complicated, so we

Semi-Regular Tessellations

If you use a combination of m ore than one regular polygon to tile the plane, regular” tessellation. If you loo k at the rules above, only rule 2 changes

tessellations. All the other rules

are still the same.

then it’s called a “semi- slightly for semi-regular

For example, you can use a co mbination of triangles and hexagons as follows to create a semi-regular tessellation. There are eight suc h tessellations possible

Tesselations3

There are many other types of tessellations, like edge-to-edge tessellation (wh ere the only condition is

Each of these has many

fascinating properties which ma thematicians are continuing to study even toda y. Tessellations are also used in computer graphics wher e objects to be shown on screen are broken up like tessellations so that

the computer can easily draw it

that adjacent tiles should share sides fully, not partially), and Penrose tilings.

on the monitor screen.