The Fractal (Foldables 2)

The second bifoldable object Jiangmei showed me was this:

Fractal 1

You can find a movie showing how this folds together in two ways here. To understand how and why this works, let’s first look at a simple saddle:


This is a polyhedron with a non-planar 8-gon as boundary. Its faces are precisely the four types of faces that are allowed in our polyhedra: All others have to be parallel to these four. The four edges that meet at the center of this saddle constitute the star I talked about the last time. Again, all edges that can occur must be parallel to one of these four. One can fold the saddle by moving the upwards pointing star edges further up (or down), and the downwards pointing edges further down (or up), thereby keeping the faces congruent. This works locally everywhere and therefore allows a global folding of anything built that way. Fractal 0

For instance, the hollow rhombic dodecahedron above can be bi-folded. Now note that this piece is also a polyhedron with boundary. In fact, its boundary is exactly the same octagon as the boundary of the saddle. 

Observe also that at the center of this piece we have a vertex in saddle form. This suggests to subdivide all rhombi into four smaller rhombi, remove the saddle an the middle vertex of the doubled hollow dodecahedron, and replace it by a copy of the standard hollow dodecahedron. This gives you Jiangmei’s fractal. Repeating this is now easy. Below is the generation 2 fractal (animation):

Fractal 2

And, just for fun, the generation 10 fractal:

 Fractal 10 colorgradient

You can see it being bifolded here. So far, the two completely folded states of our polyhedra looked very much the same. We will see next week that this doesn’t need to be the case.


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