Performativizing the Polygonic

Maths is a mountain: you can start climbing in different places and reach the same destination. There are many ways of proving the irrationality of √2 or the infinitude of the primes, for example. But you can also arrive at the same destination by accident. I’ve found that when I use different methods of creating fractals. The same fractals appear, because apparently different algorithms are actually the same underneath.

But different methods can create unique fractals too. I’ve found some new ones by using what might be called point-to-point recursion. For example, there are ten ways to select three vertices from the five vertices of a pentagon: (1, 2, 3), (1, 2, 4), (1, 2, 5), (1, 3, 4), (1, 3, 5), (1, 4, 5), (2, 3, 4), (2, 3, 5), (2, 4, 5), (3, 4, 5). Find the midpoint of the first three-point set, (1, 2, 3). Then select two vertices to go with this midpoint, creating a new three-point set, and find the midpoint again. And so on. The process looks like this, with the midpoints shown for all the three-point sets found at each stage:


vertices = 5, choose sets of 3 points, find mid-point of each



At stage 5, the fractal looks like this:


v = 5, p = 3

Note that when pixels are used again, the colour changes. That’s another interesting thing about maths: limits can sometimes produce deeper results. If these fractals were drawn at very high resolution, pixels would only be used once and the colour would never change. As it is, low resolution means that pixels are used again and again. But some are used more than others, which is why interesting colour effects appear.

If the formation of the fractal is animated, it looks like this (with close-ups of even deeper stages):

Here are some more examples:


v = 4 + central point, p = 2 (cf. Fingering the Frigit)


v = 4c, p = 2 (animated)


v = 4, p = 3



v = 5, p = 4



v = 5 + central point, p = 3



v = 5c, p = 4


v = 5c, p = 5


v = 6 + 1 point between each pair of vertices, p = 6


v = 6, p = 2


v = 6, p = 3



v = 6, p = 4


v = 6c, p = 2 (cf. Fingering the Frigit)



v = 6c, p = 3



v = 6c, p = 4


v = 7, p = 3


v = 7, p = 4



v = ,7 p = 5



v = 7c, p = 4


v = 3+1, p = 2


v = 3+1, p = 3


v = 3+1, p = 4


v = 3+2, p = 5


v = 3c+1, p = 2


v = 3c+1, p = 4


v = 3c, p = 2


v = 3c, p = 3


v = 4+1, p = 3


v = 4+1, p = 4


v = 4+1, p = 6


v = 4+1, p = 2


v = 4c+1, p = 4


v = 4c, p = 3



v = 5+1, p = 4 (and more)


v = 5, p = 2

Polymorphous Perverticity

As I’ve explained before on Overlord of the Über-Feral, the planet’s premier purveyor of polygonic performativity (probably (possibly (perspectivistically))), it works with triangles and pentagons, but not with squares. And what is “it”? A simple procedure in which you create a polygon, choose a point inside it, then repeatedly move half-way towards a vertex chosen at random, marking each new position as you go.


When the polygon has three vertices, you get a Sierpiński triangle. When it has five, you get what might be called a  Sierpiński pentagon. When it has four, you get nothing. Or rather: you get everything, because the whole interior of the square gradually fills with points. But, as I’ve also explained before, there’s a simple way to change this. You can adapt the procedure so that a vertex can’t be chosen twice in a row, and so on.

When the rule is “No vertex twice in a row”, you get this fractal (colours change as a pixel is selected again):


But you can also use what might be a vertex increment, or vi, whereby you disallow vertices that are next to the previously chosen vertex, or two positions away, and so on. When the rule is “No vertex twice in a row”, the disallowed vertex is (v + 0), that is, vi = 0. If vi = 2 and the rule is disallow(v + 2), this fractal appears (when vi = 1, there’s no fractal):


v = 4, vi = 2


You can extend these rules to apply not just to the previously chosen vertex, but also to the vertex chosen before that. Here are some fractals produced by the rule disallow(v[1] + vi[1], v[2] + vi[2]), where v[1] is the vertex previously chosen and v[2] is the vertex chosen before that:


v = 4, vi[1] = 1, vi[2] = 2



v = 4, vi[1] = 2, vi[2] = 0




v = 4, vi[1] = 2, vi[2] = 1



v = 4, vi[1] = 2, vi[2] = 2


And here are some fractals produced by the rule disallow(v[1] + vi[1], v[2] + vi[2], v[3] + vi[3]):


v = 4, vi[1] = 1, vi[2] = 1, vi[3] = 0



v = 4, vi[1] = 1, vi[2] = 1, vi[3] = 2


Applying these rules to pentagons rather than squares doesn’t produce such a dramatic difference, because the original procedure – choose any vertex at random, taking no account of previous choices – produces a fractal when v = 5, as noted above, but not when v = 4. Nevertheless, here are some fractals for v > 4:


v = 5, vi = 0


v = 5, vi = 1



v = 5, vi = 2



v = 5, vi[1] = 0, vi[2] = 0


v = 5, vi[1] = 1, vi[2] = 0


v = 5, vi[1] = 2, vi[2] = 0



v = 5, vi[1] = 1, vi[2] = 1



v = 5, vi[1] = 1, vi[2] = 1, vi[3] = 1


v = 5, vi = various


v = 6, vi = 1


Fingering the Frigit

Fingers are fractal. Where a tree has a trunk, branches and twigs, a human being has a torso, arms and fingers. And human beings move in fractal ways. We use our legs to move large distances, then reach out with our arms over smaller distances, then move our fingers over smaller distances still. We’re fractal beings, inside and out, brains and blood-vessels, fingers and toes.

But fingers are fractal are in another way. A digit – digitus in Latin – is literally a finger, because we once counted on our fingers. And digits behave like fractals. If you look at numbers, you’ll see that they contain patterns that echo each other and, in a sense, recur on smaller and smaller scales. The simplest pattern in base 10 is (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). It occurs again and again at almost very point of a number, like a ten-hour clock that starts at zero-hour:

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9…
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19…
200… 210… 220… 230… 240… 250… 260… 270… 280… 290…

These fractal patterns become visible if you turn numbers into images. Suppose you set up a square with four fixed points on its corners and a fixed point at its centre. Let the five points correspond to the digits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) of numbers in base 6 (not using 0, to simplify matters):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65… 2431, 2432, 2433, 2434, 2435, 2441, 2442, 2443, 2444, 2445, 2451, 2452…

Move between the five points of the square by stepping through the individual digits of the numbers in the sequence. For example, if the number is 2451, the first set of successive digits is (2, 4), so you move to a point half-way between point 2 and point 4. Next come the successive digits (4, 5), so you move to a point half-way between point 4 and point 5. Then come (5, 1), so you move to a point half-way between point 5 and point 1.

When you’ve exhausted the digits (or frigits) of a number, mark the final point you moved to (changing the colour of the pixel if the point has been occupied before). If you follow this procedure using a five-point square, you will create a fractal something like this:

A pentagon without a central point using numbers in a zero-less base 7 looks like this:

A pentagon with a central point looks like this:

Hexagons using a zero-less base 8 look like this:



But the images above are just the beginning. If you use a fixed base while varying the polygon and so on, you can create images like these (here is the program I used):



The Art Grows Onda

Anyone interested in recreational mathematics should seek out three compendiums by Ian Stewart: Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities (2008), Professor Stewart’s Hoard of Mathematical Treasures (2009) and Professor Stewart’s Casebook of Mathematical Mysteries (2014). They’re full of ideas and puzzles and are excellent introductions to the scope and subtlety of maths. I first came across Alexander’s Horned Sphere in one of them. I also came across this simpler shape that packs infinity into a finite area:


I call it a horned triangle or unicorn triangle and it reminds me of a wave curling over, like Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa (c. 1830) (“wave” is unda in Latin and onda in Spanish).

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849)

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849)

To construct the unicorn triangle, you take an equilateral triangle with sides of length 1 and erect a triangle with sides of length 0.5 on one of its corners. Then on the corresponding corner of the new triangle you erect a triangle with sides of length 0.25. And so on, for ever.



When you double the sides of a polygon, you quadruple the area: a 1×1 square has an area of 1, a 2×2 square has an area of 4. Accordingly, when you halve the sides of a polygon, you quarter the area: a 1×1 square has an area of 1, a 0.5 x 0.5 square has an area of 0.25 or 1/4. So if the original triangle of the unicorn triangle above has an area of 1 rather than sides of 1, the first triangle added has an area of 0.25 = 1/4, the next an area of 0.0625 = 1/16, and so on. The infinite sum is this:

1/4 + 1/16 + 1/256 + 1/1024 + 1/4096 + 1/16384…

Which equals 1/3. This becomes important when you see the use made of the shape in Stewart’s book. The unicorn triangle is a rep-tile, or a shape that can be divided into smaller copies of the same shape:



An equilateral triangle can be divided into four copies of itself, each 1/4 of the original area. If an equilateral triangle with an area of 4 is divided into three unicorn triangles, each unicorn has an area of 1 + 1/3 and 3 * (1 + 1/3) = 4.

Because it’s a rep-tile, a unicorn triangle is also a fractal, a shape that is self-similar at smaller and smaller scales. When one of the sub-unicorns is dropped, the fractals become more obvious:




Elsewhere other-posted:

Rep-Tiles Revisited

The Hex Fractor

A regular hexagon can be divided into six equilateral triangles. An equilateral triangle can be divided into three more equilateral triangles and a regular hexagon. If you discard the three triangles and repeat, you create a fractal, like this:

Adjusting the sides of the internal hexagon creates new fractals:
Discarding a hexagon after each subdivision creates new shapes:

And you can start with another regular polygon, divide it into triangles, then proceed with the hexagons:

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:


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):



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


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:



Rep It Up

When I started to look at rep-tiles, or shapes that can be divided completely into smaller copies of themselves, I wanted to find some of my own. It turns out that it’s easy to automate a search for the simpler kinds, like those based on equilateral triangles and right triangles.

right triangle rep-tiles




(Please open the following images in a new window if they fail to animate)


triangle mosaic

Previously pre-posted (please peruse):

Rep-Tile Reflections

Hextra Texture

A hexagon can be divided into six equilateral triangles. An equilateral triangle can be divided into a hexagon and three more equilateral triangles. These simple rules, applied again and again, can be used to create fractals, or shapes that echo themselves on smaller and smaller scales.




Previously pre-posted (please peruse):

Fractal Fourmulas

Fractal Fourmulas

A square can be divided into four right triangles. A right triangle can be divided into a square and two more right triangles. These simple rules, applied again and again, can be used to create fractals, or shapes that echo themselves on smaller and smaller scales.








Tri Again

All roads lead to Rome, so the old saying goes. But you may get your feet wet, so try the Sierpiński triangle instead. This fractal is named after the Polish mathematician Wacław Sierpiński (1882-1969) and quite a few roads lead there too. You can create it by deleting, jumping or bending, inter alia. Here is method #1:

Sierpinski middle delete

Divide an equilateral triangle into four, remove the central triangle, do the same to the new triangles.

Here is method #2:

Sierpinski random jump

Pick a corner at random, jump half-way towards it, mark the spot, repeat.

And here is method #3:

Sierpinski arrowhead

Bend a straight line into a hump consisting of three straight lines, then repeat with each new line.

Each method can be varied to create new fractals. Method #3, which is also known as the arrowhead fractal, depends on the orientation of the additional humps, as you can see from the animated gif above. There are eight, or 2 x 2 x 2, ways of varying these three orientations, so eight fractals can be produced if the same combination of orientations is kept at each stage, like this (some are mirror images — if an animated gif doesn’t work, please open it in a new window):






If different combinations are allowed at different stages, the number of different fractals gets much bigger:

• Continuing viewing Tri Again.