mscroggs.co.uk
mscroggs.co.uk

subscribe

Blog

 2019-04-09 
In the latest issue of Chalkdust, I wrote an article with Edmund Harriss about the Harriss spiral that appears on the cover of the magazine. To draw a Harriss spiral, start with a rectangle whose side lengths are in the plastic ratio; that is the ratio \(1:\rho\) where \(\rho\) is the real solution of the equation \(x^3=x+1\), approximately 1.3247179.
A plastic rectangle
This rectangle can be split into a square and two rectangles similar to the original rectangle. These smaller rectangles can then be split up in the same manner.
Splitting a plastic rectangle into a square and two plastic rectangles.
Drawing two curves in each square gives the Harriss spiral.
A Harriss spiral
This spiral was inspired by the golden spiral, which is drawn in a rectangle whose side lengths are in the golden ratio of \(1:\phi\), where \(\phi\) is the positive solution of the equation \(x^2=x+1\) (approximately 1.6180339). This rectangle can be split into a square and one similar rectangle. Drawing one arc in each square gives a golden spiral.
A golden spiral

Continuing the pattern

The golden and Harriss spirals are both drawn in rectangles that can be split into a square and one or two similar rectangles.
The rectangles in which golden and Harriss spirals can be drawn.
Continuing the pattern of these arrangements suggests the following rectangle, split into a square and three similar rectangles:
Let the side of the square be 1 unit, and let each rectangle have sides in the ratio \(1:x\). We can then calculate that the lengths of the sides of each rectangle are as shown in the following diagram.
The side lengths of the large rectangle are \(\frac{1}{x^3}+\frac{1}{x^2}+\frac2x+1\) and \(\frac1{x^2}+\frac1x+1\). We want these to also be in the ratio \(1:x\). Therefore the following equation must hold:
$$\frac{1}{x^3}+\frac{1}{x^2}+\frac2x+1=x\left(\frac1{x^2}+\frac1x+1\right)$$
Rearranging this gives:
$$x^4-x^2-x-1=0$$ $$(x+1)(x^3-x^2-1)=0$$
This has one positive real solution:
$$x=\frac13\left( 1 +\sqrt[3]{\tfrac12(29-3\sqrt{93})} +\sqrt[3]{\tfrac12(29+3\sqrt{93})} \right).$$
This is equal to 1.4655712... Drawing three arcs in each square allows us to make a spiral from a rectangle with sides in this ratio:
A spiral which may or may not have a name yet.

Continuing the pattern

Adding a fourth rectangle leads to the following rectangle.
The side lengths of the largest rectangle are \(1+\frac2x+\frac3{x^2}+\frac1{x^3}+\frac1{x^4}\) and \(1+\frac2x+\frac1{x^2}+\frac1{x^3}\). Looking for the largest rectangle to also be in the ratio \(1:x\) leads to the equation:
$$1+\frac2x+\frac3{x^2}+\frac1{x^3}+\frac1{x^4} = x\left(1+\frac2x+\frac1{x^2}+\frac1{x^3}\right)$$ $$x^5+x^4-x^3-2x^2-x-1 = 0$$
This has one real solution, 1.3910491... Although for this rectangle, it's not obvious which arcs to draw to make a spiral (or maybe not possible to do it at all). But at least you get a pretty fractal:

Continuing the pattern

We could, of course, continue the pattern by repeatedly adding more rectangles. If we do this, we get the following polynomials and solutions:
Number of rectanglesPolynomialSolution
1\(x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.618033988749895
2\(x^3 - x - 1=0\)1.324717957244746
3\(x^4 - x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.465571231876768
4\(x^5 + x^4 - x^3 - 2x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.391049107172349
5\(x^6 + x^5 - 2x^3 - 3x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.426608021669601
6\(x^7 + 2x^6 - 2x^4 - 3x^3 - 4x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.4082770325090774
7\(x^8 + 2x^7 + 2x^6 - 2x^5 - 5x^4 - 4x^3 - 5x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.4172584399350432
8\(x^9 + 3x^8 + 2x^7 - 5x^5 - 9x^4 - 5x^3 - 6x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.412713760332943
9\(x^{10} + 3x^9 + 5x^8 - 5x^6 - 9x^5 - 14x^4 - 6x^3 - 7x^2 - x - 1=0\)1.414969877544769
The numbers in this table appear to be heading towards around 1.414, or \(\sqrt2\). This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise because \(1:\sqrt2\) is the ratio of the sides of A\(n\) paper (for \(n=0,1,2,...\)). A0 paper can be split up like this:
Splitting up a piece of A0 paper
This is a way of splitting up a \(1:\sqrt{2}\) rectangle into an infinite number of similar rectangles, arranged following the pattern, so it makes sense that the ratios converge to this.

Other patterns

In this post, we've only looked at splitting up rectangles into squares and similar rectangles following a particular pattern. Thinking about other arrangements leads to the following question:
Given two real numbers \(a\) and \(b\), when is it possible to split an \(a:b\) rectangle into squares and \(a:b\) rectangles?
If I get anywhere with this question, I'll post it here. Feel free to post your ideas in the comments below.

Similar posts

Dragon curves II
Christmas card 2020
A surprising fact about quadrilaterals
Christmas card 2019

Comments

Comments in green were written by me. Comments in blue were not written by me.
@g0mrb: CORRECTION: There seems to be no way to correct the glaring error in that comment. A senior moment enabled me to reverse the nomenclature for paper sizes. Please read the suffixes as (n+1), (n+2), etc.
(anonymous)
                 Reply
I shall remain happy in the knowledge that you have shown graphically how an A(n) sheet, which is 2 x A(n-1) rectangles, is also equal to the infinite series : A(n-1) + A(n-2) + A(n-3) + A(n-4) + ... Thank-you, and best wishes for your search for the answer to your question.
g0mrb
                 Reply
 Add a Comment 


I will only use your email address to reply to your comment (if a reply is needed).

Allowed HTML tags: <br> <a> <small> <b> <i> <s> <sup> <sub> <u> <spoiler> <ul> <ol> <li>
To prove you are not a spam bot, please type "noitauqe" backwards in the box below (case sensitive):

Archive

Show me a random blog post
 2021 

Jan 2021

Christmas (2020) is over
 2020 
▼ show ▼
 2019 
▼ show ▼
 2018 
▼ show ▼
 2017 
▼ show ▼
 2016 
▼ show ▼
 2015 
▼ show ▼
 2014 
▼ show ▼
 2013 
▼ show ▼
 2012 
▼ show ▼

Tags

electromagnetic field hexapawn arithmetic coins finite element method bempp logic squares draughts bubble bobble graphs mathsjam binary london phd cross stitch boundary element methods curvature matt parker golden spiral hannah fry flexagons big internet math-off menace royal institution inverse matrices data visualisation wave scattering talking maths in public national lottery game show probability football oeis braiding world cup rhombicuboctahedron craft speed manchester final fantasy misleading statistics pizza cutting golden ratio dates trigonometry asteroids bodmas convergence european cup ternary plastic ratio people maths frobel interpolation manchester science festival mathsteroids estimation captain scarlet dragon curves raspberry pi hats games computational complexity javascript sorting triangles pac-man stickers exponential growth weather station pi books matrix multiplication dataset realhats chess rugby quadrilaterals reddit reuleaux polygons palindromes logs pi approximation day wool error bars sobolev spaces london underground inline code chalkdust magazine sport radio 4 royal baby geometry python news the aperiodical christmas card martin gardner chebyshev statistics graph theory gerry anderson go game of life preconditioning twitter pythagoras geogebra puzzles signorini conditions gaussian elimination noughts and crosses approximation propositional calculus mathslogicbot a gamut of games cambridge nine men's morris platonic solids video games matrix of minors folding paper folding tube maps simultaneous equations advent calendar sound probability matrices php polynomials harriss spiral weak imposition fractals accuracy determinants numerical analysis tmip data ucl programming matrix of cofactors tennis christmas countdown machine learning light latex map projections

Archive

Show me a random blog post
▼ show ▼
© Matthew Scroggs 2012–2021