Hex Appeal

A polyiamond is a shape consisting of equilateral triangles joined edge-to-edge. There is one moniamond, consisting of one equilateral triangle, and one diamond, consisting of two. After that, there are one triamond, three tetriamonds, four pentiamonds and twelve hexiamonds. The most famous hexiamond is known as the sphinx, because it’s reminiscent of the Great Sphinx of Giza:

sphinx_hexiamond

It’s famous because it is the only known pentagonal rep-tile, or shape that can be divided completely into smaller copies of itself. You can divide a sphinx into either four copies of itself or nine copies, like this (please open images in a new window if they fail to animate):

sphinx4

sphinx9

So far, no other pentagonal rep-tile has been discovered. Unless you count this double-triangle as a pentagon:

double_triangle_rep-tile

It has five sides, five vertices and is divisible into sixteen copies of itself. But one of the vertices sits on one of the sides, so it’s not a normal pentagon. Some might argue that this vertex divides the side into two, making the shape a hexagon. I would appeal to these ancient definitions: a point is “that which has no part” and a line is “a length without breadth” (see Neuclid on the Block). The vertex is a partless point on the breadthless line of the side, which isn’t altered by it.

But, unlike the sphinx, the double-triangle has two internal areas, not one. It can be completely drawn with five continuous lines uniting five unique points, but it definitely isn’t a normal pentagon. Even less normal are two more rep-tiles that can be drawn with five continuous lines uniting five unique points: the fish that can be created from three equilateral triangles and the fish that can be created from four isosceles right triangles:

equilateral_triangle_fish_rep-tile

right_triangle_fish_rep-tile

Rep-Tile Reflections

A rep-tile, or repeat-tile, is a two-dimensional shape that can be divided completely into copies of itself. A square, for example, can be divided into smaller squares: four or nine or sixteen, and so on. Rectangles are the same. Triangles can be divided into two copies or three or more, depending on their precise shape. Here are some rep-tiles, including various rep-triangles:

Various rep-tiles

Various rep-tiles — click for larger image

Some are simple, some are complex. Some have special names: the sphinx and the fish are easy to spot. I like both of those, particularly the fish. It would make a good symbol for a religion: richly evocative of life, eternally sub-divisible of self: 1, 9, 81, 729, 6561, 59049, 531441… I also like the double-square, the double-triangle and the T-tile in the top row. But perhaps the most potent, to my mind, is the half-square in the bottom left-hand corner. A single stroke sub-divides it, yet its hypotenuse, or longer side, represents the mysterious and mind-expanding √2, a number that exists nowhere in the physical universe. But the half-square itself is mind-expanding. All rep-tiles are. If intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, perhaps other minds are contemplating the fish or the sphinx or the half-square and musing thus: “If intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, perhaps…”

Mathematics unites human minds across barriers of language, culture and politics. But perhaps it unites minds across barriers of biology too. Imagine a form of life based on silicon or gas, on unguessable combinations of matter and energy in unreachable, unobservable parts of the universe. If it’s intelligent life and has discovered mathematics, it may also have discovered rep-tiles. And it may be contemplating the possibility of other minds doing the same. And why confine these speculations to this universe and this reality? In parallel universes, in alternative realities, minds may be contemplating rep-tiles and speculating in the same way. If our universe ends in a Big Crunch and then explodes again in a Big Bang, intelligent life may rise again and discover rep-tiles again and speculate again on their implications. The wildest speculation of all would be to hypothesize a psycho-math-space, a mental realm beyond time and matter where, in mathemystic communion, suitably attuned and aware minds can sense each other’s presence and even communicate.

The rep-tile known as the fish

Credo in Piscem…

So meditate on the fish or the sphinx or the half-square. Do you feel the tendrils of an alien mind brush your own? Are you in communion with a stone-being from the far past, a fire-being from the far future, a hive-being from a parallel universe? Well, probably not. And even if you do feel those mental tendrils, how would you know they’re really there? No, I doubt that the psycho-math-space exists. But it might and science might prove its existence one day. Another possibility is that there is no other intelligent life, never has been, and never will be. We may be the only ones who will ever muse on rep-tiles and other aspects of mathematics. Somehow, though, rep-tiles themselves seem to say that this isn’t so. Particularly the fish. It mimics life and can spawn itself eternally. As I said, it would make a good symbol for a religion: a mathemysticism of trans-biological communion. Credo in Piscem, Unum et Infinitum et Æternum. “I believe in the Fish, One, Unending, Everlasting.” That might be the motto of the religion. If you want to join it, simply wish upon the fish and muse on other minds, around other stars, who may be doing the same.