I made this using Stella 4d, which you can try for free at this website.
I made this using Stella 4d, which you can try for free right here.
Twelve heptagonal antiprisms, meeting at triangular faces, can make a ring with only a small gap remaining. It’s a “near miss,” made using Stella 4d, which you can try for free right here.
Above is a dodecagonal antiprism, augmented by 24 more dodecagonal antiprisms. This was the starting point for making all the polyhedra below, using Stella 4d, software available here. Each of these smaller pictures may be enlarged with a click.
Before an undertaking as great as building a Dyson Sphere, it’s a good idea to plan ahead first. This rotating image shows what my plan for an enneagonal-antiprism-based Dyson Sphere looked like, at the hemisphere stage. At this point, the best I could hope for is was three-fold dihedral symmetry.
I didn’t get what I was hoping for, but only ended up with plain old three-fold polar symmetry, once my Dyson Sphere plan got at far as it could go without the unit enneagonal antiprisms running into each other. Polyhedra-obsessives tend to also be symmetry-obsessives, and this just isn’t good enough for me.
If we filled in the gaps by creating the convex hull of the above complex of enneagonal antiprisms, in order to capture all the sun’s energy (and make our Dyson Sphere harder to see from outside it), here’s what this would look like, in false color (the real thing would be black) — and the convex hull of this Dyson Sphere design, in my opinion, especially when colored by number of sides per face, really reveals how bad an idea it would be to build our Dyson sphere in this way.
We could find ourselves laughed out of the Galactic Alliance if we built such a low-order-of-symmetry Dyson Sphere — so, please, don’t do it. On the other hand, please also stay away from geodesic spheres or their duals, the polyhedra which resemble fullerenes, for we certainly don’t want our Dyson Sphere looking like all the rest of them. We need to find something better, before construction begins. Perhaps a snub dodecahedron? But, if we use a chiral polyhedron, how do we decide which enantiomer to use?
[All three images of my not-good-enough Dyson Sphere plan were created using Stella 4d, which you can get for yourself at this website.]
Many polyhedra appear in finite sets. The most well-known example of such a set is the five Platonic solids. Many know them from role-playing games.
Other finite sets include the thirteen Archimedean, four Kepler-Poinsot, thirteen Catalan, and 92 Johnson solids, and the eight convex deltahedra, among others. There is even a finite set, the near-misses, with an unknown number of members, due to the “fuzziness” of its definition. The symmetrohedra is another set with “fuzzy” criteria, but there are still only so many symmetrohedra to be found. We simply haven’t found them all yet, or, if we have, we don’t know that we have, but it would not be reasonable to claim that infinitely many await discovery.
However, not all groups of polyhedra are finite. Some polyhedra appear, instead, in infinite families. What is needed to generate such infinite families (at the cost of some forms of symmetry, compared to, say, Platonic or Archimedean solids) is the use of bases — special polyhedral faces which play a stronger role in the determination of that polyhedron’s shape than do the other faces. For the familar prism, there are two bases.
In a pentagonal prism, the bases are pentagons, as seen above. For a pentagonal prism, n = 5, for n is simply the number of sides of the base. The smallest value of n which is possible, 3, yields a triangular prism. There’s no upper limit for n, either. Here’s a regular hexacontagonal prism, where each base has sixty sides.
Obviously, n can be increased without limit, although for very large values of n, the prism will be hard to distinguish from a cylinder.
Another infinite family may be found by taking the dual of each prism. This is the dual of the pentagonal prism:
Taking a dual of a prism produces a dipyramid, with its n-gonal base hidden between the puramids, but with no guarantee that the triangular faces will be regular — and in this case, they are not. It is possible for a pentagonal dipyramid to have only regular faces . . .
. . . but regular faces will not work if n = 6 (because the dipyramid collapses to zero height), or indeed any number other than 3, 4, or 5. Therefore, dipyramids will not be an infinite family unless non-equilateral triangles are permitted as faces.
Half of a dipyramid, of course, is simply a pyramid, with the single base now visible:
Like the dipyramids, and for the same reason, there are only three pyramids (n = 3, 4, or 5) which can have all faces regular. An infinite family of right, regular pyramids do exist, though, if isosceles triangles are permitted as lateral faces.
While pyramids and dipyramids have only one base each, the already-described prisms have two. Prisms also can maintain regularity of all faces, no matter how large n becomes, unlike pyramids and dipyramids. Moreover, prisms can be transformed into another infinite family of regular-faced polyhedra by rotating one base by one half of one-nth of a rotation, relative to the other base, and replacing the n square lateral faces with 2n equilateral triangles. These polyhedra are called antiprisms. The pentagonal antiprism looks like this:
Antiprisms with all faces regular do not have the “only 3, 4, and 5” limitation that affected the pyramids and dipyramids. For example, here is one with all faces regular, and dodecagonal bases:
One more infinite family of polyhedra may be found, using the antiprisms: their duals. The dual of the pentagonal antiprism looks like this:
There is no regularity of faces for any members of this family with n > 3, for their faces are kites. (When n = 3, the kites become squares, and the polyhedron formed is simply a cube.) Unfortunately, “kiteohedron” looks ridiculous, and sounds worse, so efforts have been made to find better names for these polyhedra. “Deltohedra” has been used, but is too easily confused with the deltahedra, which are quite different. The best names yet invented for this infinite family of kite-faced polyhedra are, in my opinion, the antidipyramids, and the trapezohedra.
(Note: the rotating polyhedral images above were generated using Stella 4d: Polyhedron Navigator, available at http://www.software3d.com/Stella.php.)
I made this polyhedron, using Stella 4d: Polyhedron Navigator, by taking the convex hull of a different polyhedron, one not shown here. To those who don’t already know, though, that just raises a question: what does it mean to “take the convex hull” of a polyhedron? Precisely-worded mathematical definitions of “convex hull” are easy to find, using Google and/or Wikipedia, but I have a more informal definition — one which matches the way I actually think about this operation one can perform on polyhedra.
Here’s how I picture the process: imagine a thin, spherical rubber sheet is surrounding, but not touching, the starting polyhedron. Next, start shrinking the rubber sheet. It can touch the polyhedron inside it (which might be non-convex), but it cannot penetrate any of its faces. Keep shrinking the sheet until it gets caught at points on the polyhedron inside, and then keep shrinking it further. When it starts to stretch, keep going. Stop just before the rubber sheet starts to burst from being over-stretched — and the shape of the rubber sheet, at that point, is the convex hull of the polyhedron inside it. Stretching the rubber sheet, to the limit, ensures that the convex hull will only have flat, polygonal faces — not any sort of curved surfaces.
Here’s an example — one that will end with a different convex hull than the one found at the top on this post. I’ll start with a great rhombcuboctahedron, which is also known as a great rhombicuboctahedron, as well as a truncated cuboctahedron.
If I take the convex hull of this great rhombcuboctahedron, the result is simply another great rhombcuboctahedron — the very thing I started with — which doesn’t explain much. Therefore, before taking the convex hull, I’m going to alter it. This can be done in many ways, of course. I’m choosing augmentation of each face with prisms, and setting the prism-height at twice the edge length of these faces. Here’s the result.
Taking the convex hull of this doesn’t return this same polyhedron, as it would have before the augmentation-with-prisms. Instead, after the “stretching of the imaginary rubber sheet,” this is the result:
In this image, the faces that are unmoved still have their original colors. There are also many new faces, of varying types, which were created in the “convex hulling” process. All of these new faces are shown in the same drab-green color.
The next step, changing the color scheme, has little (if any) mathematical significance, but it certainly does increase the attractiveness of the result — and admiration of beauty is, and always has been, a major motivating force in the millenia-old study of polyhedra. I’m choosing a color scheme which gives each face-type a separate color, and also lets the red, yellow, and dark blue keep their same colors.
If you’d like to try Stella 4d for yourself, please visit www.software3d.com/Stella.php. A free trial download is available.