Radical Sheet

If you take a sheet of standard-sized paper and fold it in half from top to bottom, the folded sheet has the same proportions as the original, namely √2 : 1. In other words, if x = √2 / 2, then 1 / x = √2:

√2 = 1.414213562373…, √2 / 2 = 0.707106781186…, 1 / 0.707106781186… = 1.414213562373…

So you could say that paper has radical sheet (the square or other root of a number is also called its radix and √ is known as the radical sign). When a rectangle has the proportions √2 : 1, it can be tiled with an infinite number of copies of itself, the first copy having ½ the area of the original, the second ¼, the third ⅛, and so on. The radical sheet below is tiled with ten diminishing copies of itself, the final two having the same area:

papersizes

papersizes_static

You can also tile a radical sheet with six copies of itself, two copies having ¼ the area of the original and four having ⅛:

paper_6div_static

paper_6div

This tiling is when you might say the radical turns crucial, because you can create a fractal cross from it by repeatedly dividing and discarding. Suppose you divide a radical sheet into six copies as above, then discard two of the ⅛-sized rectangles, like this:

paper_cross_1

Stage 1


Then repeat with the smaller rectangles:

paper_cross_2

Stage 2


paper_cross_3

Stage 3


paper_cross_4

Stage 4


paper_cross_5

Stage 5


paper_cross

Animated version

paper_cross_static

Fractile cross

The cross is slanted, but it’s easy to rotate the original rectangle and produce an upright cross:

paper_cross_upright

paper_cross_upright_static

N-route

In maths, one thing leads to another. I wondered whether, in a spiral of integers, any number was equal to the digit-sum of the numbers on the route traced by moving to the origin first horizontally, then vertically. To illustrate the procedure, here is a 9×9 integer spiral containing 81 numbers:

| 65 | 64 | 63 | 62 | 61 | 60 | 59 | 58 | 57 |
| 66 | 37 | 36 | 35 | 34 | 33 | 32 | 31 | 56 |
| 67 | 38 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 30 | 55 |
| 68 | 39 | 18 | 05 | 04 | 03 | 12 | 29 | 54 |
| 69 | 40 | 19 | 06 | 01 | 02 | 11 | 28 | 53 |
| 70 | 41 | 20 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 27 | 52 |
| 71 | 42 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 51 |
| 72 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 |
| 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 |

Take the number 21, which is three places across and up from the bottom left corner of the spiral. The route to the origin contains the numbers 21, 22, 23, 8 and 1, because first you move right two places, then up two places. And 21 is what I call a route number, because 21 = 3 + 4 + 5 + 8 + 1 = digitsum(21) + digitsum(22) + digitsum(23) + digitsum(8) + digitsum(1). Beside the trivial case of 1, there are two more route numbers in the spiral:

58 = 13 + 14 + 6 + 7 + 7 + 6 + 4 + 1 = digitsum(58) + digitsum(59) + digitsum(60) + digitsum(61) + digitsum(34) + digitsum(15) + digitsum(4) + digitsum(1).

74 = 11 + 12 + 13 + 14 + 10 + 5 + 8 + 1 = digitsum(74) + digitsum(75) + digitsum(76) + digitsum(77) + digitsum(46) + digitsum(23) + digitsum(8) + digitsum(1).

Then I wondered about other possible routes to the origin. Think of the origin as one corner of a rectangle and the number being tested as the diagonal corner. Suppose that you always move away from the starting corner, that is, you always move up or right (or up and left, and so on, depending on where the corners lie). In a x by y rectangle, how many routes are there between the diagonal corners under those conditions?

It’s an interesting question, but first I’ve looked at the simpler case of an n by n square. You can encode each route as a binary number, with 0 representing a vertical move and 1 representing a horizontal move. The problem then becomes equivalent to finding the number of distinct ways you can arrange equal numbers of 1s and 0s. If you use this method, you’ll discover that there are two routes across the 2×2 square, corresponding to the binary numbers 01 and 10:

2x2

Across the 3×3 square, there are six routes, corresponding to the binary numbers 0011, 0101, 0110, 1001, 1010 and 1100:

3x3

Across the 4×4 square, there are twenty routes:
4x4

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Across the 5×5 square, there are 70 routes:

5x5

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Across the 6×6 and 7×7 squares, there are 252 and 924 routes:

6x6

7x7

After that, the routes quickly increase in number. This is the list for n = 1 to 14:

1, 2, 6, 20, 70, 252, 924, 3432, 12870, 48620, 184756, 705432, 2704156, 10400600… (see A000984 at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences)

After that you can vary the conditions. What if you can move not just vertically and horizontally, but diagonally, i.e. vertically and horizontally at the same time? Now you can encode the route with a ternary number, or number in base 3, with 0 representing a vertical move, 1 a horizontal move and 2 a diagonal move. As before, there is one route across a 1×1 square, but there are three across a 2×2, corresponding to the ternary numbers 01, 2 and 10:

3x3t

There are 13 routes across a 3×3 square, corresponding to the ternary numbers 0011, 201, 021, 22, 0101, 210, 1001, 120, 012, 102, 0110, 1010, 1100:

4x4t

And what about cubes, hypercubes and higher?

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.