Thursday, June 25, 2015

Margot and the Pink Elephant

It is a well-known mathematical fact that there are three and only three regular tessellations of the plane..  I offer no proof for this, but it is a fact.

I was thinking a few years ago about the ways in which tessellation of the plane might be accomplished with other sorts of figures.  I designed this little example, which would look really neat if the elephants were pink, and you might just wonder. . .


Margot's sixth birthday coincided with the arrival of the circus in town so of course her Mama took her to see the parade touting the coming performances.  As they stood along the curb watching the passing wagons and lumbering beasts, Margot was dancing with excitement, pointing, exclaiming, and oohing and aahing.

But as the elephants approached, Margot suddenly got very quiet and very still.  Very un-Margot-like behavior indeed.  The first behemoth was pink.  All over pink.  Mother could see that the attendant for whatever reason had dusted the animal all over with pink powder of some sort.  But little Margot's comprehension was addled, or as we would say in this day and age, her mind was blown.

Margot's shriek and a mighty shriek it was coming as it did from such a small body could have been heard in the next county.  At any rate, the elephants heard it and immediately the vast pink elephant responded with a clarion trumpet call that could have been heard two counties over. This was instantly followed by an elephant sextet that virtually deafened everyone in town and the applause of the lions and tigers as they roared from their cages increased the cacophony to a level never before nor ever since heard in that town. The dappled mare reared, the bareback rider rolled in the street, her tutu and tights mangled and dirty, and so were her knees and elbows.

Then the zebras broke out of their wagon. . .

Margot is up in years now, and to this day she excuses herself and leaves the room whenever someone mentions "the day the circus came to town."

© 2015 David W. Lacy


*For really cool tessellations study M. C. Escher

M. C. Escher

8 comments:

Jim Grey said...

I had to look up what a tesselation was. I worried that I had slept through that class back in college. For I am a mathematician by degree.

Vee said...

A not very well-known mathematical concept and one of your great tales to start my day. (My tiny mind needs the graphic in color.)

Grace said...

I too had to look up tessellation of the plane. Then I had to look long and hard at your drawing to see the elephants because I have very poor figure/ground perception. And then I wondered if the Margo story was true. Sometimes your fiction reads truer than your facts.

vanilla said...

Jim, specialties within the subject area, you see. I believe I did sleep through much of Boolean algebra.

Vee, evidently this mathematical fact is less well-known than I had assumed. Perhaps I should get my Crayolas out. . .

Grace, the Margot story, like a pink elephant, is a figment of my imagination. But now I am concerned that my factual reporting seems "fictional." Perhaps a function of the adage, "Truth is stranger than fiction." Or maybe, heaven forfend, I have become even as many "news" reporters whose inability to keep the fictional bits out of their reports seems to be growing.

Secondary Roads said...

As an M C Escher fan, I know about tessellation. A great word for an even greater concept.

vanilla said...

Chuck, one cannot but enjoy the intricacies of Escher's work.

Ilene said...

The mathematical side of my bro is beyond my grasp, but the creative side, now that I can relate to. It is interesting how math and creativity coexist in your brain. Pretty pictures, and a fun story.

vanilla said...

Ilene, thanks for reading my little tale.