Monday, September 21, 2015

Math is SO COOL

I had such fun playing with beads/math today.  The other day I was looking at something that was showcasing geometric jewelry.  I'd tell you the source, except that I totally can't find it any more, and I don't know whose work it was that got me started on this.  But anyway, I saw some jewelry that had painted cubes in it.  The cubes faces were 2 colors, with the color change happening on the diagonal of the square.  The way the colors were arranged, you could see that cubes have tetrahedrons embedded in them, but tets that use right triangles instead of equilateral ones.  So I started playing around.  I was using 20mm tubes for the sides of the cubes, so for a hypotenuse I needed around 28 mm.  I used 25mm tubes with a #11 seed bead on either end, and that worked pretty well.  Turns out that you do that and make an octahedron with a tet at either  end.  That's a structure that I've used over and over, but not with right triangles.  When you make either equilateral triangles, of just irregular triangles, you get things like this:

But if you do it with right triangles, you get this:  a cube.  How cool is that? 
I hope you can see it; it's hard to photograph 3D stuff like this.  There's a tet at the top and another at the bottom of the picture.  In between is an oct with hypotenuse edges at top and bottom and side length edges zigzagging around the middle.
  In that cube some of the diagonals line up end to end and some don't.  I realized that I could make them all go line up end to end, and I wondered what the internal structure of a cube like that would be.  I guessed that it might be 5 tets, but I couldn't envision it.  The reason I guessed that it might be 5 tets if that I've learned that when you make an oct, at the time when you've put in 11 of the 12 tubes, and you're getting ready to add the 12th tube, there are 2 possible ways you can orient the 12th tube.  One produces an octahedron and the other produces a cluster of 3 tets.  So I guessed that it would be possible to make a cube out of 5 tets.
Voila!  It turns out that there's an internal equilateral tet made of all hypotenuses.  Then each of the 4 faces of that tet is the base for a tet made of sides of the cube.
You might say this is interesting, but so what.  But for me it could be big.  I really like building things using RAW, but I couldn't use it with the tubes, because the square sides weren't rigid.  Everything could collapse.  So I had to work with tets and octs.  But right angles are so much more intuitive.  We've been stacking blocks since we were kids, and we know how to assemble things using right angles.  60 degree angles and equilateral triangles are much wierder.  So now I can use structures that work with tubes, but still build cubes.  At the moment the cubes I've made are pretty big, but who knows where this will lead?

1 comment:

  1. That looks like a nice stable cube you built. Lovely.