subregular tetrahedra

Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 14 (3):411-2 (2008)
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This largely expository lecture deals with aspects of traditional solid geometry suitable for applications in logic courses. Polygons are plane or two-dimensional; the simplest are triangles. Polyhedra [or polyhedrons] are solid or three-dimensional; the simplest are tetrahedra [or triangular pyramids, made of four triangles]. A regular polygon has equal sides and equal angles. A polyhedron having congruent faces and congruent [polyhedral] angles is not called regular, as some might expect; rather they are said to be subregular—a word coined for this lecture. To repeat, a subregular polyhedron has congruent faces and congruent [polyhedral] angles. A subregular polyhedron whose faces are all regular polygons is regular—using standard terminology. Geometers before Euclid showed that there are “essentially” only five regular polyhedra: every regular polyhedron is a tetrahedron (4 faces), a hexahedron or cube (6 faces), an octahedron (8 faces), a dodecahedron (12 faces), or an icosahedron (20 faces). The first question is whether there are subregular polyhedra that are not regular. For example, are there tetrahedra having congruent angles and congruent triangular faces but whose faces are not equilateral triangles? Another question is the classification of subregular polyhedra if they exist. For example, considering the fact that the regular tetrahedra all have equilateral triangles as faces, we ask which triangles other than equilaterals are faces of subregular tetrahedra. Similarly, considering the fact that the regular hexahedra all have squares as faces, we ask which quadrangles other than squares are faces of subregular hexahedra. After introductory remarks that include historical and philosophical points, we concentrate on tetrahedra. A triangle that is congruent to each of the four faces of a tetrahedron is called a generator of the tetrahedron. The main result proved is that every acute triangle is a generator of a subregular tetrahedron. The proof includes an algorithm –implementable with scissors and paper –that constructs from any given acute triangle a subregular tetrahedron whose faces are congruent to the given triangle. Algorithm: Given any acute triangle. Construct a similar triangle whose sides are double the sides of the given triangle. Draw the three lines connecting the three midpoints of the sides (making four triangles congruent to the given triangle—a central triangle surrounded by three peripheral triangles). Make three “hinges” along the lines connecting the midpoints. “Fold” the peripheral triangles together (into a tetrahedron). [LIGHTLY EDITED VERSION OF PRINTED ABSTRACT] Acknowledgements: William Lawvere, Colin McLarty, Irvin Miller, Frango Nabrasa, Lawrence Spector, Roberto Torretti, and Richard Vesley.

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John Corcoran
PhD: Johns Hopkins University; Last affiliation: University at Buffalo


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