Novel Math, Nobel Physics

When I was a kid I used to read Scientific American at the local library. I loved Martin Gardner‘s Mathematical Games column, and I vividly remember his description of Roger Penrose‘s then recent discovery of two shapes that force a nonperiodic tiling of the plane, an aperiodic tiling, a kind of visual music.

Only later did I learn of Penrose’s important contributions to General Relativity, including topological arguments to demonstrate the inevitably of gravitational collapse leading to astrophysical black holes. And earlier this month I was excited to hear that Penrose — in his 90th year — shares the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics!

So I got out my Penrose tiles (thanks Woody) and assembled a small pattern. It’s not easy, but a combination of local edge and vertex rules (or a global inflation rule) can extend the aperiodic pattern to infinity.

I build a Penrose Tiling

I build a Penrose Tiling

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow New York and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is a professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, University of Hawai'i, and North Carolina State University. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and variable stars.
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