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Symmetry, Tiling, Periodic

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1 Introduction

This website uses a new notation for the symmetry of tiling patterns defined

in [1]. The conventional notation is also noted since this is widely used, as in

[2]. The older notation is somewhat ad hoc, whereas the new notation, once

understood, has a logical structure and meaning.

Those wishing to explore these issue further should consult [1] since only an

outline is given here. Clicking on the figure number produces the details of the

tiling in the main collection.

2.1 Mirror lines

We first consider mirror lines. These should be easy to see. Consider the pattern

in Figure 1.

1

The mirror lines go from one corner of the 6-pointed star to the opposite

corner (and extended indefinitely in both directions).

You can see that these mirror lines divide the patterns into triangles, one

vertex at the centre of the 6-pointed star, one at the centre of the red equilateral

triangle and the other where the four green triangles meet.

It is easy to see that these small triangles have no internal symmetry and

hence the mirror lines captures the symmetry of the pattern. Round the ver-

tices of this triangle, we have 6-fold, 3-fold and 2-fold symmetry. The notation

(signature) of this symmetry group is *632. The star indicates the use of mirror

lines and the numbers the lines meeting at a point.

We now use the same logic with the pattern in Figure 2.

One set of mirror lines are vertical and horizontal cutting the small brown

squares in two. Another set are the diagonals through the middle of the orange

octagons. The triangles formed by the mirror lines have vertices at the centre

of the octagon, the center of the brown square and the point where the two blue

triangles meet. Round the vertices of this triangle, we have 4-fold, 4-fold and

2-fold symmetry. Hence the signature for the symmetry of this pattern is *442.

2

Our third example with mirror lines is Figure 3.

Here the mirror lines are all the lines except the edges of the three-pointed

star. Hence the pattern is divided into triangles with vertices at the centre of

the three-pointed star and the two other places where the mirror lines cross.

We have 3-fold symmetry round each of these vertices, hence the signature for

the symmetry of this pattern is *333.

3

Our fourth example with mirror lines is in Figure 4.

Here the mirror lines are vertical and horizontal. One set of vertical lines goes

through the white polygons, the other through the 8-pointed star which appears

between the four white polygons. The horizontal ones goes through either the

the 8-points stars only or through the 8-pointed star and square. Hence the

pattern is divided into rectangles with 2-fold symmetry at each vertex. Hence

the signature for this pattern is *2222.

2.2 Gyrations

Here we consider points in the pattern about which a rotation can be undertaken

to leave the pattern unchanged. Corresponding to each of the four pattern

above, we have a pattern with the same number of gyrations. All these patterns

are different from their mirror image (and have no mirror lines).

4

Figure 5: 632

In Figure 5, the centres of the gyrations are the center of the hexagons,

centres of the six-pointed star and the point midway between two neighbouring

hexagons.

Figure 6: 442

In Figure 6, the centres of the gyrations are the center of the 8-pointed star,

centres of the square and the point midway between two neighbouring 8-pointed

stars.

5

Figure 7: 333

centre of the white hexagon and where three green polygons meet.

Figure 8: 2222

Figure 8 has four different gyrations of order 2: the centre of the brown

polygon, where two brown polygons meet, the centre of the white polygon and

where two white polygons meet.

6

2.3 Miracles and Wonders

Figure 9: **

In Figure 9, we have two vertical mirror lines through the grey and red

squares. This case is different from the mirror line examples previously since

the area between the mirror lines is not finite.

We have now considered the symmetries which involve only mirrors or only

gyrations. We have eight more cases.

In Figure 10, we have mirror lines vertical and horizontally through the

octagon. We can also gyrate 180 degrees round the centre of the octagon. A

gyration of order four is present about the point at which four black polygons

meet. The notation shows all these three properties.

7

Figure 11: 3*3

Figure 11 has a gyration of order 3 round the green 6-sided polygon, a mirror

line by extending the lines through the 6-pointed star, and a gyration round the

centre of the 6-pointed star.

Figure 12 mirror lines along the major and minor axes of the black 8-sided

figure. There is also a gyration of order 2 round the point midway between the

two large black stars.

8

Figure 13: 22*

Figure 13 has a (horizontal) mirror line along the middle of the brown poly-

gons. The pattern can be rotated 180 degrees about the middle of the white

8-sided polygon and also at the point where the two white polygons meet.

Figure 14: 22

In Figure 14 we have two rotations by 180 degrees; one about the centre of

the white polygon and the other where two white polygons meet. But there is

another symmetry: consider a brown polygon. It can be moved along horizon-

tally and then reflected in the line between the brown polygons. This symmetry

operation is called a miracle and is denoted by . Hence the signature for the

pattern above.

9

Figure 15: *

In Figure 15 we have mirror lines through the vertical brown polygons. If one

considers one of the non-vertical brown polygons, they can be moved vertical

down to the next line of white polygons and flipped over left-to-right. The last

operation of clearly the miracle be met before giving the signature above.

Figure 16:

moved both up and down and flipped left-to-right. In other words, we have two

miracles. Hence the signature for this pattern.

10

Figure 17: O

wonder.

The symmetry groups of frieze patterns are being introduced. These are illus-

trated in chapter 5 of [1]. Examples will be added here when they appear on

the web site.

11

Figure 19: 2*

The symmetry groups of frieze patterns are being introduced. These are briefly

mentioned on page 10 of [1]. Examples will be added here when they appear on

the web site.

Figure 20: *2

12

Figure 21: 2

Figure 22: 3

13

Figure 23: *4

Figure 24: 4

14

Figure 25: *5

Figure 26: 5

15

Figure 27: *6

Figure 28: 6

16

Figure 29: 7

Figure 30: *8

17

Figure 31: *d10

18

5 Notations compared

The signature used in the new notation is compared which the conventional

notation. The frieze groups are added at the bottom follow by the start of the

rosette groups.

* (cm)

2*22 (cmm)

O (p1 )

2222 (p2 )

333 (p3 )

3*3 (p3lm)

*333 (p3ml )

442 (p4 )

4*2 (p4g)

*442 (p4m)

632 (p6 )

*632 (p6m)

(pg)

22 (pgg)

** (pm)

22* (pmg)

*2222 (pmm)

(p111 )

(p1a1 )

* (p1m1 )

(pm11 )

22 (p112 )

*22 (pma2 )

2* (pmm2 )

*2 (d2 )

2 (c2 )

etc

6 Conclusions

This explanation can be used to determine the signature of any repeating pat-

tern. However, a fuller explanation is available in [1]. Note that the area of many

of the more complex patterns the displayed on this web site use a scale which

implies the edge needs to be inspected carefully to determine how it repeats.

Thanks to Chaim Goodman-Strauss for encouragement in this enterprise.

19

References

[1] J H Conway, H Burgiel and C Goodman-Strauss. The symmetry of things.

A K Peters Ltd. 2008. ISBN 978 1 56881 220 5

[2] B. Grunbaum and G. C. Shephard, Tilings and Patterns, W. H. Freeman

& Co., New York, NY, 1987.

v33

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