Tilings have adorned buildings from ancient Rome to the Islamic world, from Victorian England to colonial Mexico. But while it sometimes seems free from worldly limitations, tiling is a very precise art, where not much can be left to chance. We can push and turn and wiggle, but if the maths is not right, it isn't going to tile. Josefina Alvarez and Cesar L. Garcia investigate.
Squares do it, triangles do it, even hexagons do it — but pentagons don't. They just won't fit together to tile a flat surface. So are there any tilings based on fiveness? Craig Kaplan takes us through the five-fold tiling problem and uncovers some interesting designs in the process.
If you've ever redecorated a bathroom, you'll know that there are only so many ways in which you can tile a flat plane. But once you move into the curved world of hyperbolic geometry, possibilities become endless and the most amazing fractal structures ensue. Caroline Series and David Wright give a short introduction to the maths behind their beautiful images.
Is the Universe finite, with an edge, or infinite, with no edges? Or is it even stranger: finite but with no edges? It sounds far-fetched but the mathematical theory of topology makes it possible, and nobody yet knows the truth. Janna Levin tells us more.