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Squares Let's back up and start the procedure over, with another kind of polygon. Continuing the step-by-step approach, we change from triangles to squares by increasing the number of sides by one. The method is reliable if plodding. What happens if two squares come together? Again, that's just a hinge (Fig. 4-3). So start with three. If there are three squares around one corner, the same must be true for all corners, and as before, the structure is self-determining. Continue to join three squares at available vertices until the system closes itself off. With six squares and eight corners, this is the most familiar shape in our developing family of regular polyhedra—the ubiquitous cube.
Next, we gather four squares at a vertex and immediately hit ground. Four times 90 degrees is 360 degrees, the whole plane again. And while such groups of four will generate graph paper indefinitely, they can never close off as a system. So that's it for squares. Pentagons Try four around a corner. Another new situation. The interior angle of a regular pentagon measures 108 degrees (see Appendix A); four of them together add up to 432 degrees, which is more than the planar 360. This indicates that four pentagons simply will not fit around one point. Not only have we reached a stopping point for regular polyhedra out of pentagons, but this example also shows that not all regular polygons can be made to fill a page (or tile a floor). Specific spatial constraints apply in two dimensions as well as in three. We shall investigate these patterns in more detail in Chapter 12.
A Limited Family
If we dwell on this subject, that is because it is crucial to understanding the framework of Bucky's investigation. Space has specific characteristics, and we want not only to list and understand them, but also to begin to really The regular polyhedra provide a good starting point from which to branch out in all directions. An eighteenth-century mathematician, Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), greatly simplified our task with his realization that all patterns can be broken down into three elements: crossings, lines, and open areas. He thereby introduced the basic elements of structure (vertices, edges, and faces) which underlie all geometrical analysis. Bucky saw this contribution as a breakthrough of equal importance to the law for which Euler is known, for this precise identification of terms enabled Euler's other, more famous observation. |

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