The Boerdijk-Coxeter helix is a helical structure of tetrahedra which possesses no non-trivial translational or rotational symmetries. In this document, we develop a procedure by which this structure is modified to obtain both translational and rotational (upon projection) symmetries along/about its central axis. We report the finding of several, distinct periodic structures, and focus on two particular forms related to the pentagonal and icosahedral aggregates of tetrahedra as well as Buckminster Fuller's "jitterbug transformation".

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Article

Periodic Modification of the Boerdijk–Coxeter

Helix (tetrahelix)

Garrett Sadler 1, Fang Fang 1,*, Richard Clawson 1,2 and Klee Irwin 1

1 Quantum Gravity Research, Topanga, CA 90290, USA; Garrett@quantumgravityresearch.org (G.S.);

richard@quantumgravityresearch.org (R.C.); klee@quantumgravityresearch.org (K.I.)

2

Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences, University of Southern Queensland,

Toowoomba, QLD 4350, Australia

* Correspondence: fang@quantumgravityresearch.org

Received: 5 August 2019; Accepted: 18 October 2019; Published: 22 October 2019

Abstract: The Boerdijk–Coxeter helix is a helical structure of tetrahedra which possesses no non-trivial

translational or rotational symmetries. In this document, we develop a procedure by which this

structure is modified to obtain both translational and rotational (upon projection) symmetries

along/about its central axis. We show by construction that a helix can be obtained whose shortest

period is any whole number of tetrahedra greater than one except six, while a period of six necessarily

entails a shorter period. We give explicit examples of two particular forms related to the pentagonal

and icosahedral aggregates of tetrahedra as well as Buckminster Fuller’s “jitterbug transformation”.

Keywords: helical structure of tetrahedra; boerdijk-coxeter helix; icosahedral aggregates of tetrahedra

MSC: 52C23; 52B15; 52B99; 52C99

1. Introduction

The Boerdijk–Coxeter helix (BC helix, tetrahelix) [1,2] is an assemblage of regular tetrahedra in a

linear, helical fashion (Figure 1a). This assemblage may be obtained by appending faces of tetrahedra

together so as to maintain a central axis or, alternatively, R.W. Gray [3] has produced a description of

the BC helix by partitioning into 4-tuples the points of R3 given by the sequence (sn)n∈Z

sn = (r cos (nθ),±r sin (nθ), nh) ,

(1)

where r = 3a

√

3/10, θ = arccos(−2/3), h = a/

√

10, and a designates the tetrahedral edge length.

(The sequence of faces used while appending, or the sign of the second term in Equation (1), determine

the chirality of the helix.) Due to the irrational value of θ, it may be observed that the BC helix has

an aperiodic nature, in that the structure has no non-trivial translational or rotational symmetries. Here,

we describe a modified form of the BC helix that has both translational and rotational symmetries

along/about its central axis. Figure 1b,c show two such modified structures.

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001; doi:10.3390/math7101001

www.mdpi.com/journal/mathematics

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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(a)

(b)

(c)

Figure 1. Canonical and modified Boerdijk–Coxeter helices: (a) a right-handed Boerdijk-Coxeter (BC)

helix; (b) a “5-BC helix” may be obtained by appending and rotating tetrahedra through the angle given

by Equation (4) using the same chirality of the underlying helix; (c) a “3-BC helix” may be obtained by

appending and rotating tetrahedra through the angle given by Equation (4) using the opposite chirality

of the underlying helix.

2. Method of Assembly: Modified BC Helices

The assembly of our modified BC helices is distinguished from that of the canonical BC helix in

that an additional operation is required between appending tetrahedra to the helix. This operation

is depicted in Figure 2. Starting with a tetrahedron Tk = (vk0, vk1, vk2, vk3), a face fk is selected onto

which an interim tetrahedron, T′k, is appended. The (k + 1)

th tetrahedron is obtained by rotating T′k

through an angle β about an axis nk normal to fk, passing through the centroid of T′k.

The resulting structure depends, principally, on two choices in this process. Firstly, as with the BC

helix, the sequence of faces, F = ( f0, f1, . . . , fk), selected in the construction of the helix will determine

its underlying chirality—i.e., the chirality of the helix formed by the tetrahedral centroids. Faces may

be selected so that some sequences produce right-handed helices, while others produce left-handed

helices (and, certainly, some sequences do not produce helices at all). Secondly, there is the choice of

the magnitude and direction of the rotation. In the present writing, we will use the convention that a

facial normal vector nk is pointed away from the face fk, i.e., nk points away from the interior of Tk.

Consequently, positive values of β will correspond to right-handed rotations about nk, while negative

values will produce left-handed rotations. (And, certainly, a canonical BC helix is obtained for β = 0.)

A convenient method of assembly for a modified BC helix is by usage of two transformations,

A fT : R

3 −→ R3 and B fT : R3 −→ R3, where A

f

T is a reflection across face f on tetrahedron T, and B

f

T is

a rotation about an axis normal to this face, passing through its center.

fk

Tk

(a)

Tk

Tk

'

(b)

Tk

Tk+1

nk

(c)

Figure 2. Assembly of modified BC helix: (a) a segment of an m-BC helix with face f identified on

tetrahedron Tk; (b) an interim tetrahedron, T′k (shown in blue), is appended (face-to-face) to f on Tk; (c)

finally, Tk+1 is obtained by rotating T′k through the angle β about the axis nk.

A modified BC helix is formed by applying A fkTk to the vertices vkj, j = 0, . . . , 3, of tetrahedron Tk

to produce T′k. Finally, Tk+1 is obtained by applying B

fk

T′k

to the vertices of T′k, that is:

v′kj = A

fk

Tk

(

vkj

)

(2)

v(k+1)j = B

fk

T′k

(

v′kj

)

.

(3)

By applying these transformations in an alternating fashion, first to each Tk and then to T′k, a

modified BC helix is assembled.

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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When referring to a modified BC helix, we use the term period to refer to the number of appended

tetrahedra necessary to return to an initial angular position on the helix, and will say that the structure

is periodic when such an integer exists. For almost all values of β, the associated modified BC helix is

aperiodic, however, the resulting structure is periodic for certain values of β. Here, we use the term

m-BC helix to designate a modified BC helix with a period of m tetrahedra (and no shorter period).

We derive a simple formula for the rotation angle β for any desired period greater than one, with

a proof that six (only) cannot occur without a shorter period. In Section 4 we present two specific

examples. Elsewhere [4], we present novel modifications of icosahedral and pentagonal bipyramid

aggregates of tetrahedra involving a rotation through an angular value of

β = ± arccos

(

3φ− 1

4

)

,

(4)

where φ =

(

1 +

√

5

)

/2 denotes the golden ratio. It will be seen that this value of β corresponds

to 3- and 5-BC helices. For this reason, as well as the appearance of this angle in Fuller’s “jitterbug

transformation” [5], our examples will focus on the 3- and 5-BC helices. In Section 4.1, we will

provide an explicit construction of a 5-BC helix, along with some additional properties of this structure.

In Section 4.2, the same is done for the 3-BC helix.

3. Modified BC Helices: General Formula for Periodicity

To demonstrate the formula for periodicity, we begin with a particular construction of the

standard BC helix, one slightly different from the construction described in Section 2. Because of the

twenty-four-fold symmetry of the tetrahedron, there are many transformation sequences that could be

used; the one below is chosen because its algebraic representation can be reduced to a simple form,

leading to the desired formula.

3.1. Standard BC Helix, Aperiodic

On the initial tetrahedron T0 (Figure 3a), select as before a face f0 (with unit normal n0) where

the next tetrahedron will be appended, and label the edges a0, b0, c0. Then, instead of reflecting

through f0, rotate outward through it around a0 by the tetrahedron’s dihedral angle. This yields the

same appended tetrahedron T1 as if we had reflected through f0, but it transforms f0 to a new face f1

(Figure 3b). The edges are likewise transformed to a1, b1, and c1 with, of course, a1 = a0, since that

was the axis of rotation.

In subsequent steps, Tk+1 is generated by rotating Tk through face fk around one of {ak, bk, ck},

where the a, b, and c are used cyclically. Thus, rotations are taken successively about a0, b1, c2, a3, b4,

. . . . This sequence assures that fk is always the correct face across which to extend the BC helix, which

will be left-/right-handed if {a0, b0, c0} are ordered clockwise/counterclockwise around f0.

a0

b0

c0

n0

face f0

(a)

a1=a0

b1

c1

n0

n1

face f1

(b)

Figure 3. First step in constructing the standard BC helix: (a) the initial tetrahedron T0, with face f0,

edges {a0, b0, c0}, and normal n0; (b) T0 with T1 and the transformed face, edges, and face normal.

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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Periodicity of the helix, or lack thereof, is determined by whether any tetrahedron Tk has the same

orientation as T0, up to the group symmetries of the tetrahedron. We can test for this most easily by

ignoring the translations of the tetrahedra, locating all their centroids at the origin, and observing how

they are rotated relative to T0.

To do so, let Sk be a copy of Tk = (vk0, vk1, vk2, vk3) with its centroid zk translated to the origin.

That is,

Sk = (wk0, wk1, wk2, wk3),

wkj ≡ vkj − zk,

zk ≡ 14 ∑

j

vkj.

(5)

Let {ak, bk, ck} be unit vectors at the origin, parallel respectively to the edges {ak, bk, ck} of Tk.

The rotation about the edge ak by any angle can be represented as a sequence of, first, a translation

taking one vertex of ak to the origin; next, a rotation about ak by the given angle; and finally, a

translation taking the origin back to the vertex of ak. A corresponding sequence represents rotations

about bk and ck. Ignoring translations, then, to compare the orientations of the Tk, we look at the Sk,

each of which is determined simply by rotations about the vectors {aj, bj, cj} for j < k.

The geometric, or Clifford, algebra C`3 is particularly convenient for representing rotations in the

Euclidean space E3 [6–8], so this shall be the primary tool for our analysis. Rotation of the Euclidean

vectors is a special case of the rotation of multivectors in C`3, where a mulitvector M is rotated by a

rotor R and its reverseR̃,

R̃R = RR̃ = 1,

(6)

M′ =R̃MR.

(7)

R itself is a multivector subject to such transformations. Moreover, a product of rotors is another

rotor, along with its reverse,

(R1R2 )̃=R̃2R̃1.

(8)

We can write a rotor, among other ways, as a bivector exponential or as the product of two vectors.

Let I be the right-handed unit trivector, and let v and w be arbitrary unit vectors separated by an angle

θ. The rotor for a rotation by 2θ in the v,w-plane is

Ru,θ = eIuθ = vw,

R̃u,θ = e−Iuθ = wv,

(9)

with u another unit vector orthogonal to that plane and oriented so that {u, v, w} is a right-handed

(though not orthogonal) triple. Iu is the unit bivector of the v,w-plane.

We apply this now to Sk. The important quantity, which shall be our focus throughout this

section, is the rotor Uk that determines Sk. It is composed of a sequence of rotations about vectors

a0, b1, c2, a3, . . . , [g](k−1), where [g] represents either a, b, or c, whichever is the kth term. The angle of

rotation in each case is the tetrahedron’s dihedral angle, arccos 13 , so let δ be the dihedral half-angle.

We can therefore express the rotations in rotor form as

Sk =ŨkS0Uk

(10)

Uk ≡ eIa0δeIb1δeIc2δeIa3δ . . . eI[g](k−1)δ

(11)

δ = 12 arccos

1

3 = arccos

√

2

3 .

(12)

(This assumes a right-handed rotation about each [g]j, so the direction of each along its specified

line must be correctly chosen; we shall do that shortly). Equation (11) is an intuitive form exhibiting

explicitly how S0 is rotated successively about the different axes, but all the distinct non-commuting

bivectors in the exponents make this difficult to work with. Two simplifications will remedy this.

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

5 of 18

The first comes from the relationship between ak, bk, and ck, which are defined to lie parallel to

the sides of the equilateral triangle face fk, normal to nk. As mentioned in the preceding paragraph,

the line on which each lies has been specified, but not the direction along that line. For Equation (11)

to be valid when used in Equation (10), choose {ak, bk, ck} to be cyclically oriented in a right-handed

sense relative to nk (Figure 4), such that, e.g., bk is directed from edge ak to ck. Hence,

akbk = bkck = eInk

2π

3 .

(13)

Figure 4 confirms that a right-handed rotation about ak is the same orientation as the rotation

about edge ak that takes the tetrahedron outward through face fk in the direction of nk, as required to

correctly construct the BC helix.

ak

bk

ck

ak

bk

ck

nk

Figure 4. Sk, the kth rotation of S0 = T0. nk is the face normal, and unit vectors {ak.bk, ck} are aligned

with edges {ak, bk, ck}.

Equation (13) can be solved for bk and ck in terms of ak as

bk = e−Ink

π

3 akeInk

π

3

(14a)

= e−Ink

kπ

3 akeInk

kπ

3

for k = 1 mod 3

ck = e−Ink

2π

3 akeInk

2π

3

(14b)

= e−Ink

kπ

3 akeInk

kπ

3

for k = 2 mod 3.

Therefore, the sequence a0, b1, c2, . . . can be written g0, g1, g2,. . . with

gk = e−Ink

kπ

3 akeInk

kπ

3 .

(15)

With this first simplification we eliminate the bs and cs from Uk in Equation (11). The price

is the introduction of ns (in Equation (15)), but it allows us to write each factor in a uniform way,

distinguished only by the value of its index, whence

Uk =

k−1

∏

0

eIgjδ.

(16)

The second simplification is to address the fact that in Equation (15), the ak and nk of each

successive transformation are themselves the results of all the previous transformations, so that Uk has

a multitude of distinct bivector exponents. Fortunately, this can be reduced to a form in terms of only

a0 and n0. We begin by illustrating with an example, then prove the general lemma.

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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Consider three rotors R1, R2, and R3. For a general multivector M (including the Rj) define

M′ ≡R̃1MR1

(17a)

M′′ ≡R̃′2M′R′2 =R̃′2R̃1MR1R′2

(17b)

M′′′ ≡R̃′′3 M′′R′′3 =R̃′′3R̃′2R̃1MR1R′2R′′3 .

(17c)

As with the tetrahedra of our BC helix, each successive rotation of M is implemented by a rotor

which is itself transformed by all the previous rotations. Now our focus is on the rotors themselves.

The rotor that acts on M to produce M′′ is

R1R′2 = R1(R̃1R2R1) = R2R1.

(18)

To produce M′′′, the rotor is

R1R′2R

′′

3 = R1R

′

2(R̃

′

2R̃1R3R1R

′

2) = R3R1R

′

2 = R3R2R1.

(19)

It becomes evident, then, that a sequence of rotations where each rotor is transformed by

the previous ones can be expressed as a reordered sequence where each rotor is the original,

untransformed rotor.

To prove the general case, begin with the following definitions. Let R00, . . . , Rn0 represent a set of

initial rotors, and define

R0 ≡ R00

(20a)

Rk ≡

(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)̃

Rk0

(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)

for k ∈ {1, . . . , n}.

(20b)

This is just a generalization of Equation (17), though the notation here differs slightly from that

example: rather than allow a proliferation of prime symbols, we use a naught subscript to denote an

initial rotor, and its absence indicates a rotor transformed by all the rotors of lower index. Of course,

(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)̃(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)

=

(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)̃

= 1,

(21)

since the product of rotors is a rotor. We now prove the lemma, that a sequence of successively

transformed rotations is equivalent to the reverse sequence of untransformed rotations.

Lemma 1. For rotors Rk defined by Equation (20) up to any non-negative integer k,

k

∏

0

Rj =

0

∏

k

Rj0.

Proof. The proof is by induction. By Equation (20a) we know the lemma holds for k = 0. For k > 0,

assume it holds for k− 1. Then

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

7 of 18

k

∏

0

Rj =

(

k−1

∏

1

Rj

)

Rk

(22)

=

(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)̃

Rk0

(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)

= Rk0

(

k−1

∏

0

Rj

)

= Rk0

(

0

∏

k−1

Rj0

)

=

0

∏

k

Rj0.

From here follows our first theorem, which presents the simple rotor form for any tetrahedron in

the helix.

Theorem 1. A rotor Uk giving the orientation of tetrahedron Tk (relative to T0) in the Boerdijk–Coxeter helix

can be expressed as the kth power of a constant rotor, this constant being a compound of rotations about a face

normal and the direction of an edge. Namely,

Uk = e−In0k

π

3

(

eIn0

π

3 eIa0δ

)k ∼= (eIn0 π3 eIa0δ)k ,

where ∼= here means equivalent up to a symmetry of the tetrahedron.

Proof. Begin with the definition in Equation (11) of Uk, and use Equation (15) and Lemma 1.

Uk = eIa0δeIb1δeIc2δeIa3δ . . . e

I[g](k−1)δ

(23)

=

k−1

∏

0

e−Inj

jπ

3 eIajδ eInj

jπ

3

=

0

∏

k−1

e−In0 j

π

3 eIa0δ eIn0 j

π

3

= e−In0(k−1)

π

3

(

1

∏

k−1

eIa0δ eIn0 j

π

3 e−In0(j−1)

π

3

)

eIa0δ

= e−In0k

π

3 eIn0

π

3

(

1

∏

k−1

eIa0δ eIn0

π

3

)

eIa0δ

= e−In0k

π

3

(

eIn0

π

3 eIa0δ

)k

.

The leading rotor in the last line is e−In0k

π

3 ; when Uk acts on S0, this is the one that acts first. It

produces a 2π3 k rotation around n0, which leaves S0 invariant.

The rotor product (eIn0

π

3 eIa0δ) in Uk is of course equivalent to a single rotation of some angle θ

about some axis. The cosine of θ/2 is given by the scalar part of the product, which has a simple form

since the two exponents are perpendicular,

cos

θ

2

=

〈

eIn0

π

3 eIa0δ

〉

= cos

π

3

cos δ =

1√

6

.

(24)

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

8 of 18

This gives θ = arccos(−2/3), an irrational fraction of a circle, so Uk will not return S0 to itself for

any non-zero integer k. It confirms the well-known fact that the BC helix is aperiodic. We now show,

however, that modifying it with an extra twist around nk in each step can yield a periodic structure.

3.2. Modified BC Helix, Periodic

Theorem 2. The BC helix can be modified to have period m for any integer m > 1.

Proof. The proof is constructive. Follow the construction of the standard BC helix as above, but after

each rotation about ak, bk, or ck, insert a rotation about nk by some fixed angle β. The resulting kth

rotor Umk for the m-BC helix is found as in Equation (23),

Umk ≡ e

Ia0δeIn0

β

2 eIb1δeIn1

β

2 eIc2δeIn2

β

2 . . . eI[g](k−1)δ eIn(k−1)

β

2

(25)

=

k−1

∏

0

e−Inj

jπ

3 eIajδ eInj

jπ

3 eInj

β

2

=

0

∏

k−1

e−In0 j

π

3 eIa0δ eIn0

(

jπ

3 +

β

2

)

= e−In0(k−1)

π

3

(

1

∏

k−1

eIa0δ eIn0

(

jπ

3 +

β

2

)

e−In0(j−1)

π

3

)

eIa0δ eIn0

β

2

= e−In0(k−1)

π

3

(

1

∏

k−1

eIa0δ eIn0

(

π

3 +

β

2

))

eIa0δ eIn0

(

π

3 +

β

2

)

e−In0

π

3

= e−In0(k−1)

π

3

[

eIa0δ eIn0

(

π

3 +

β

2

)]k

e−In0

π

3 .

To keep β paired with the δ rotation, the rearrangement in lines 4 and 5 above differs slightly from

that done in Equation (23); this results in the extra e−In0

π

3 on the end.

The modified BC helix generated by Umk is m-periodic if U

m

m

∼= 1 when acting on S0. The leading

and trailing rotors in Umk are already symmetries of S0, so it remains to make the central factor one as

well when k = m. This can be done by choosing β such that

[

eIa0δ eIn0

(

π

3 +

β

2

)]m

= ±1.

(26)

For m = 0 this is trivial. Otherwise, for some unit vector h and any integer p,

eIa0δ eIn0

(

π

3 +

β

2

)

= (±1)

1

m = eIh

pπ

m

(27)

〈

eIa0δ eIn0

(

π

3 +

β

2

) 〉

=

〈

eIh

pπ

m

〉

cos δ cos

(

π

3

+

β

2

)

= cos

pπ

m

β = 2 arccos

(

cos pπm

cos δ

)

− 2π

3

.

This has a solution when δ < pπm < π − δ. Numerically, δ ≈ 0.98

π

5 , so we require

1

5 /

p

m /

4

5 (no

new solutions appear if we take p > m). Clearly no integer p satisfies this for m = 1, but for any m > 1

there is some p that does (e.g., let p =

⌊m

2

⌋

). Then Umm = ±e−In0k

π

3 ∼= 1 when acting on S0.

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

9 of 18

Remark 1. β is an angle of rotation around nk for each tetrahedron Sk, but a 2π3 rotation around nk is a

symmetry of Sk, so the 2π3 can therefore be dropped,

β = 2 arccos

(

cos pπm

cos δ

)

⇒ Umm ∼= 1 acting on S0.

(28)

This is the general formula for angles to modify a BC helix to have period m.

Remark 2. While m is the number of tetrahedra in a period, p is the number of windings. That is, for p > 1,

the tetrahedra wind around repeatedly, but may not return to the original orientation until the pth winding,

which occurs at the mth tetrahedron. If they do, m will not be the shortest period of that helix. In the interest of

uniqueness, this motivates the following definition.

Definition 1. An m-BC helix is a BC helix modified according to Theorem 2 so as to have period m, but no

shorter period.

Corollary 1. From Definition 1 and Theorem 2, an m-BC helix requires that the pm in cos

pπ

m be irreducible, so

For integer m > 1, ∃ m-BC helix ⇐⇒ ∃

p ∈ Z

∣∣∣∣∣∣

m

5 / p /

4m

5

gcd(m, p) = 1

.

(29)

(The approximate inequality can be made exact by using the exact value of δ as shown in Theorem 2, which

admits of slightly wider bounds.)

Theorem 3. There is an m-BC helix for all integers m > 1 except 6.

Proof. For m ∈ {2, 3, 4, 5}, both conditions in Corollary 1 are satisfied by p = 1, so corresponding

m-BC helices exist. Indeed, for m = 5, one can choose p = 1 or 2, and get two distinct helices.

For m = 6, the inequality in Corollary 1 is satisfied only by p ∈ {2, 3, 4}, none of which is coprime

with 6, so there is no 6-BC helix (periodicity of 6 only occurs as a multiple of periodicities 2 or 3).

For 6 < m < 30, a straightforward check reveals a satisfactory p for each m (usually more

than one).

For m ≥ 30, use a lemma of D. Hanson [9] that there is a prime between 3n and 4n for n > 1. First

define positive integers q, r, n by

m ≡ 6q + r,

r < 6

(30)

n ≡

⌈m

6

⌉

= q + 1.

(31)

Then

3n = 3q + 3 >

m

2

(since r < 6),

(32)

4m

5

=

24q + 4r

5

= 4q +

4

5

(q + r) ≥ 4q + 4 = 4n

for q ≥ 5.

(33)

These can be summarized as

m

2

< 3n < 4n ≤ 4m

5

.

(34)

Since q ≥ 5 ⇒ n > 1, Hanson’s lemma applies, indicating a prime between 3n and 4n, hence

between m2 and

4m

5 . This fits it within the bounds shown in Equation (29), slightly tighter than the

exact bounds, so it satisfies the exact version of the Corollary 1 inequality. As a prime less than m but

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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greater than half m, it is coprime with m, so it satisfies the coprime condition as well. We conclude that

an m-BC helix exists for q ≥ 5, i.e., for m ≥ 30.

From Equation (28) with p = 1, we find for m = 3 and 5,

cos 12 β3 =

√

3

8 ⇒

cos β3 = − 14

(35)

cos

(

β3 − 2π3

)

= 1+3

√

5

8 =

3φ−1

4

,

cos 12 β5 =

√

3

8 φ ⇒

cos β5 =

3φ−1

4

.

(36)

In Equation (35) we used the congruency of a 2π3 rotation to shift the angle, and in Equation (36)

we used cos(π/5) = φ/2 and also φ2 − 1 = φ. These values confirm β given in Equation (4).

It may be worth mentioning that the mathematics here describes abstract helix structures in which

the modifying rotations do not generally avoid the intersecting of nearby tetrahedra. In a physical

model with any nonzero β, the extra rotation will cause Tk to crash into Tk−2 and Tk+2 unless some

extra translation is introduced to avoid it.

4. Modified BC Helices: Explicit Examples

In this section we will describe the assembly of the 3- and 5-BC helices. The approach used here

generates a primitive set of tetrahedra following the method of assembly described in Section 2 while

using the value of β in Equation (4). Modified BC helices of arbitrary length may then be generated by

translating copies of this primitive set along the helix’s central axis (explicitly provided below). Due to

the presence of the golden ratio in Equation (4), we refer to such a structure by the name “philix”.

In order to keep the expressions simple, we choose the starting tetrahedron in a convenient way.

The expressions for any desired philix axis can be obtained by multiplying the values given here by

the corresponding rotation matrix. At the conclusion of each of the sections below, the appropriate

transformation is offered to align the philix axis with the z-axis of R3.

Interestingly, the sign of β will determine whether a 3- or a 5-period philix is generated according

to the following rule:

(i) When the chiralities of the rotation by β and that of the underlying helix produced by the face sequence

F = ( f0, f1, . . . , fk) are alike, one obtains a 5-period philix.

(ii) When the chiralities of the rotation by β and that of the underlying helix produced by the face sequence

F = ( f0, f1, . . . , fk) are unlike, one obtains a 3-period philix.

In the constructions of Sections 4.1 and 4.2, face sequences are used such that a right-handed

underlying helix is produced. Accordingly, a positive value of β generates a 5-BC helix, while a negative

value generates a 3-BC helix. For compactness, the values of the primitive tetrahedral vertices, central

axis vector, and central helix radius and pitch are given in these sections. All values and expressions

necessary to compute the transformations A fkTk and B

fk

Tk

are given in Appendix A.

4.1. The 5-BC Helix

Using Tk = (vk0, vk1, vk2, vk3), vkj ∈ R3, to designate a tetrahedron of an 5-BC helix, a primitive

set for a 5-period philix may be formed from the unit-edge length tetrahedra {T0, . . . , T4} given by

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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T0 :

v00 =

(

0, 0,

√

2

3

− 1

2

√

6

)

(37)

v01 =

(

− 1

2

√

3

,−1

2

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v02 =

(

− 1

2

√

3

,

1

2

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v03 =

(

1√

3

, 0,− 1

2

√

6

)

T1 :

v10 =

(

0, 0,− 5

2

√

6

)

(38)

v11 =

(

−1 + 3

√

5 + 3

√

6− 2

√

5

16

√

3

,−1 + 3

√

5−

√

6− 2

√

5

16

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v12 =

(

−1 + 3

√

5− 3

√

6− 2

√

5

16

√

3

,

1 + 3

√

5 +

√

6− 2

√

5

16

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v13 =

(

1 + 3

√

5

8

√

3

,−1

4

√

1

2

(

3−

√

5

)

,− 1

2

√

6

)

T2 :

v20 =

(

− 1

12

√

3

,

−4 +

√

5

12

,−8 + 3

√

5

6

√

6

)

(39)

v21 =

(

−11 + 3

√

5

24

√

3

,−5 +

√

5

24

,

−8 + 3

√

5

6

√

6

)

v22 =

(

5− 3

√

5

12

√

3

,

5 +

√

5

12

,− 5

6

√

6

)

v23 =

(

− 5

72

(√

3 + 3

√

15

)

,

5

24

(

−1 +

√

5

)

,− 11

6

√

6

)

T3 :

v30 =

(

5− 4

√

5

12

√

3

,−

√

5

12

,−11 + 2

√

5

6

√

6

)

(40)

v31 =

(

13− 11

√

5

24

√

3

,

3 + 7

√

5

24

,−8 + 5

√

5

6

√

6

)

v32 =

(

13− 5

√

5

24

√

3

,

−3 + 7

√

5

24

,

−8 + 5

√

5

6

√

6

)

v33 =

(

−5 + 2

√

5

6

√

3

,

√

5

6

,−5 + 2

√

5

6

√

6

)

T4 :

v40 =

5

(

1−

√

5

)

12

√

3

,

−5 +

√

5

12

,−5 + 4

√

5

6

√

6

(41)

v41 =

−5 +√5

24

√

3

,

5

(

1 +

√

5

)

24

,−11 + 4

√

5

6

√

6

v42 =

(

−11 + 13

√

5

24

√

3

,

5−

√

5

24

,−8 + 7

√

5

6

√

6

)

v43 =

(

−1 + 8

√

5

12

√

3

,

4 +

√

5

12

,−8 +

√

5

6

√

6

)

.

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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A 5-period philix may be generated by translating the vertices of these tetrahedra by integer

values of a vector w5 ∈ R3 given by

w5 =

−5

(√

3 +

√

15

)

36

,

5 +

√

5

12

,−5 + 2

√

5

3

√

6

,

(42)

such that

v(j+5k)i = vji + kw5,

for k ∈ Z.

(43)

When this is done, one obtains a structure with five-fold rotational symmetry (in its projection)

and a linear “period” of 5 tetrahedra along its central axis. (See Figure 5 for this 5-period philix,

and Figure 6 for comparison with the 3-period version. See also Mathematica Notebook S1 in the

Supplementary Materials at the end of the article for 3D rotatable images.) The centroids of the

tetrahedra comprising a 5-period philix form a helix with a linear pitch of

p5 =

√

25

18

+

5

√

5

9

(44)

and a radius of

r5 =

5−

√

5

15

√

2

(45)

producing a helix with the parameterization c : R −→ R3 given by:

c (t) = r5 (u1 cos t + u2 sin t) +

t

4π

w5 + q5,

(46)

where u1 =

(

− 1√

6

, 1√

2

, 1√

3

)

and u2 =

(

− 12

√

1

3

(

5 +

√

5

)

,− 12

√

1 + 1√

5

,

1

√

15+6

√

5

)

are orthonormal

vectors spanning the plane perpendicular to the philix axis w5, and

q5 =

(

−

√

5− 5

30

√

3

,

1

30

(√

5− 5

)

,

√

5− 5

15

√

6

)

(47)

is a vector to translate the helix to the location of the philix above (as its axis does not pass through the

origin). The tetrahedral centroids lie on this helix at the positions given by t = k 4π5 , k ∈ Z.

The 5-period philix described in this section may by aligned with the z-axis by applying the

transformation

H5 (v) = C5 (v− q5) ,

(48)

to each vertex vkj of the philix, where

C5 =

1

24

(

9−

√

75 + 30

√

5

)

1

4

√

1

2

(

10 +

√

5 +

√

75 + 30

√

5

)

(3+

√

5)(5+

√

5)

√

6(5+2

√

5)

300+132

√

5

1

4

√

1

2

(

10 +

√

5 +

√

75 + 30

√

5

)

5

8 −

1

8

√

3 + 6√

5

− 12

√

1− 1√

5

− 25(123+55

√

5)

2

√

6(5+2

√

5)

7/2

1

2

√

1− 1√

5

− 5(360+161

√

5)

√

3(5+2

√

5)

7/2

(49)

is a matrix that rotates w5 to the direction of (0, 0, 1).

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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w5

T5

T0

(a)

(b)

Figure 5. The periodicity of the 5-BC helix: (a) the vertices of T5 are the vertices of T0 translated by w5;

(b) a projection of the 5-BC helix along its central axis.

w3

T3

T0

(a)

(b)

Figure 6. The periodicity of the 3-BC helix: (a) the vertices of T3 are the vertices of T0 translated by w3;

(b) a projection of the 3-BC helix along its central axis.

4.2. The 3-BC Helix

The 3-period philix (Figure 1c) is produced here using an approach similar to that of the 5-period

philix in Section 4.1. Here, a primitive set {T0, T1, T2} is taken such that T0 is as before (see Equation

(37) on page 11) and

T1 :

v10 =

(

0, 0,− 5

2

√

6

)

(50)

v11 =

(

−1 + 3

√

5− 3

√

6− 2

√

5

16

√

3

,−1 + 3

√

5 +

√

6− 2

√

5

16

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v12 =

(

−1 + 3

√

5 + 3

√

6− 2

√

5

16

√

3

,

1 + 3

√

5−

√

6− 2

√

5

16

,− 1

2

√

6

)

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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v13 =

(

1 + 3

√

5

8

√

3

,

1

4

√

1

2

(

3−

√

5

)

,− 1

2

√

6

)

T2 :

v20 =

(

− 1

12

√

3

,

4−

√

5

12

,−8 + 3

√

5

6

√

6

)

(51)

v21 =

(

5− 3

√

5

12

√

3

,−5 +

√

5

12

,− 5

6

√

6

)

v22 =

(

−11 + 3

√

5

24

√

3

,

5 +

√

5

24

,

−8 + 3

√

5

6

√

6

)

v23 =

−5

(√

3 + 3

√

15

)

72

,

5

(

1−

√

5

)

24

,− 11

6

√

6

.

To generate the tetrahedra of the 3-period philix, one translates these primitive tetrahedra along

an axial direction (as in Section 4.1), which now has the value

w3 =

(

−5 + 3

√

5

12

√

3

,

5−

√

5

12

,− 5

3

√

6

)

.

(52)

In other words, the 3-period philix is produced using the tetrahedra {T0, T1, T2} above such that

v(j+3k)i = vji + kw3,

for k ∈ Z.

(53)

The structure one one obtains has three-fold rotational symmetry (in its projection) and a linear

“period” of 3 tetrahedra along its central axis (see Figure 6). As with its 5-period sibling, the tetrahedral

centroids of the 3-period philix form a helix. The corresponding values for the pitch (p3) and radius

(r3) are substantially simpler than in the 5-period case, and are given by

p3 =

√

5

6

(54)

r3 =

√

2

9

(55)

The corresponding parameterization to Equation (46) is

c (t) = r3 (u1 cos t + u2 sin t) +

t

2π

w3 + q3,

(56)

u1 is as before, u2 =

(

1

12

(√

2− 3

√

10

)

,− 1+

√

5

2

√

6

, 13

)

, and q3 =

(

1

9

√

3

,− 19 ,−

1

9

√

2

3

)

.

In this case,

tetrahedral centroids lie on the helix at t = k 2π3 , k ∈ Z.

To align the philix of this section with the z-axis, one may use the analog of Equation (48), with

C3 =

1

12

(

3− 4

√

5

)

1

12

(

2

√

3 +

√

15

)

1

12

(

3

√

2 +

√

10

)

1

12

(

2

√

3 +

√

15

)

3

4

−−

√

2+

√

10

4

√

3

1

12

(

−3

√

2−

√

10

)

1

12

(

−

√

6 +

√

30

)

−

√

5

3

.

(57)

5. Conclusions

It is known that the BC helix exhibits an aperiodic nature such that it possesses no non-trivial

translational or rotational symmetries. Here we have developed modified varieties of this structure,

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producing helices of tetrahedra possessing both translational and rotational (in their projections)

symmetries along/about their central axes. Unique cases of such a structure with period m have been

designated in this writing as m-BC helices, and we have shown how to construct these for any m > 1

but six, with an explanation of why a six-period helix cannot be unique. We also presented detailed

construction of two particular variations: the 3-BC helix (3-period philix) and the 5-BC helix (5-period

philix). The construction process of the m-BC helices resembles that of the standard BC helix, however

a rotation is added after each new tetrahedron is appended to the chain. When the value of β given

by Equation (4) is used, the relative chiralities of this rotation and the underlying chain of tetrahedra

determines whether a 3- or 5-period philix is produced.

Supplementary Materials: Mathematica Nobebook S1: m-BC-helix-ancillary.nb, 3D rotatable images

of the 3- and 5-period philices. This file can be viewed with the Wolfram Player, available for free at

https://www.wolfram.com/player/.

Author Contributions: Conceptualization, F.F. and K.I.; Investigation, F.F., G.S. and R.C.; Methodology and

Writing Manuscript, G.S. and R.C.; Software, G.S. and F.F.; Supervision, K.I.

Funding: This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A. The Transformations A fkTk and B

fk

Tk

The transformations A fkTk and B

fk

Tk

of Section 2 have the form

A fT (v) = M

f

T

(

v− c fT

)

+ c fT

(A1)

B fT (v) = R

f

T

(

v− c fT

)

+ c fT ,

(A2)

where M fT ∈ O(3) is a reflection matrix through a mirror parallel to face f of tetrahedron T, R

f

T ∈ SO(3)

is a rotation matrix by β through an axis normal to the face f , and c fT is the center of the tetrahedral

face f on T. The values of M fkTk , R

fk

T′k

, T′k, and c

fk

Tk

necessary to generate the primitive tetrahedra in

Sections 4.1 and 4.2 are given here.

Appendix A.1. Transformations Related to the 5-BC Helix

The reflection matrices M f0T0 , . . . , M

f3

T3

are as follows:

M f0T0 =

1 0

0

0 1

0

0 0 −1

(A3)

M f1T1 =

1

18

(

−5− 3

√

5

)

1

6

√

18− 14

√

5

3 −

1

9

√

23 + 3

√

5

1

6

√

18− 14

√

5

3

1

6

(

3 +

√

5

)

1

3

√

1−

√

5

3

− 19

√

23 + 3

√

5

1

3

√

1−

√

5

3

7

9

(A4)

M f2T2 =

1

18

(

11 + 3

√

5

)

−−1+

√

5

6

√

3

− 19

√

5

2

(

−3 +

√

5

)

−−1+

√

5

6

√

3

1

6

(

3−

√

5

)

5+

√

5

3

√

6

− 19

√

5

2

(

−3 +

√

5

)

5+

√

5

3

√

6

− 19

(A5)

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

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M f3T3 =

1

18

(

11− 3

√

5

)

− 1+

√

5

6

√

3

− 19

√

5

2

(

3 +

√

5

)

− 1+

√

5

6

√

3

1

6

(

3 +

√

5

)

−5+

√

5

3

√

6

− 19

√

5

2

(

3 +

√

5

)

−5+

√

5

3

√

6

− 19

.

(A6)

The rotation matrices R f0T′0

, . . . , R f3T′3

are given by:

R f0T′0

=

1

8

(

1 + 3

√

5

)

1

4

√

3

2

(

3−

√

5

)

0

− 14

√

3

2

(

3−

√

5

)

1

8

(

1 + 3

√

5

)

0

0

0

1

(A7)

R f1T′1

=

1

72

(

38 + 15

√

5

)

1

24

√

287− 380

√

5

3

1

9

√

2

− 124

√

83− 104

√

5

3

1

2 +

5

√

5

24

1

6

√

14− 16

√

5

3

−23+9

√

5

36

√

2

− 5+

√

5

12

√

6

1

9

(

2 + 3

√

5

)

(A8)

R f2T′2

=

1

144

(

65 + 33

√

5

)

−−19+

√

5

48

√

3

29−9

√

5

36

√

2

−41+11

√

5

48

√

3

1

48

(

9 + 17

√

5

)

−−1+

√

5

12

√

6

11−9

√

5

36

√

2

1

6

√

369+165

√

5

1

18

(

11 + 3

√

5

)

(A9)

R f3T′3

=

5

36 +

3

√

5

8

13−2

√

5

24

√

3

−8+3

√

5

18

√

2

−17+4

√

5

24

√

3

1

2 +

5

√

5

24

7−2

√

5

6

√

6

1

36

√

83− 33

√

5

11−7

√

5

12

√

6

1

18

(

11 + 3

√

5

)

.

(A10)

The face centers c f0T0 , . . . , c

f3

T3

are:

c f0T0 =

(

0, 0,− 1

2

√

6

)

(A11)

c f1T1 =

(

−1 + 3

√

5

24

√

3

,

1

12

√

1

2

(

3−

√

5

)

,− 7

6

√

6

)

(A12)

c f2T2 =

(

1

72

(√

3− 7

√

15

)

,

1

24

(

3

√

5− 1

)

,−8 +

√

5

6

√

6

)

(A13)

c f3T3 =

(

1

72

(√

3− 9

√

15

)

,

1

24

(

1 + 3

√

5

)

,−8 + 3

√

5

6

√

6

)

.

(A14)

The intermediate tetrahedra T′0, . . . , T

′

3 are given by:

T′0 :

v′00 =

(

0, 0,−

√

2

3

− 1

2

√

6

)

(A15)

v′01 =

(

− 1

2

√

3

,−1

2

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′02 =

(

− 1

2

√

3

,

1

2

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′03 =

(

1√

3

, 0,− 1

2

√

6

)

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

17 of 18

T′1 :

v′10 =

(

0, 0,− 5

2

√

6

)

(A16)

v′11 =

(

1− 3

√

5

8

√

3

,

1

8

(

−1−

√

5

)

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′12 =

(

− 1

4

√

3

,

√

5

4

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′13 =

(

− 5

72

(√

3 + 3

√

15

)

,

5

24

(√

5− 1

)

,− 11

6

√

6

)

T′2 :

v′20 =

(

− 1

12

√

3

,

1

12

(√

5− 4

)

,−8 + 3

√

5

6

√

6

)

(A17)

v′21 =

(

13− 11

√

5

24

√

3

,

1

24

(

3 + 7

√

5

)

,−8 + 5

√

5

6

√

6

)

v′22 =

(

5− 3

√

5

12

√

3

,

1

12

(

5 +

√

5

)

,− 5

6

√

6

)

v′23 =

(

− 5

72

(√

3 + 3

√

15

)

,

5

24

(√

5− 1

)

,− 11

6

√

6

)

T′3 :

v′30 =

(

5− 4

√

5

12

√

3

,−

√

5

12

,−11 + 2

√

5

6

√

6

)

(A18)

v′31 =

(

13− 11

√

5

24

√

3

,

1

24

(

3 + 7

√

5

)

,−8 + 5

√

5

6

√

6

)

v′32 =

(

−11 + 13

√

5

24

√

3

,

1

24

(

5−

√

5

)

,−8 + 7

√

5

6

√

6

)

v′33 =

(

−5 + 2

√

5

6

√

3

,

√

5

6

,−5 + 2

√

5

6

√

6

)

.

Appendix A.2. Transformations Related to the 3-BC Helix

The reflection matrices M f0T0 and M

f1

T1

are as follows:

M f0T0 =

1 0

0

0 1

0

0 0 −1

(A19)

M f1T1 =

1

18

(

−5− 3

√

5

)

−7+

√

5

6

√

3

− 19

√

23 + 3

√

5

−7+

√

5

6

√

3

1

6

(

3 +

√

5

)

− 13

√

1−

√

5

3

− 19

√

23 + 3

√

5 − 13

√

1−

√

5

3

7

9

.

(A20)

The rotation matrices R f0T′0

and R f1T′1

are given by:

R f0T′0

=

1

8

(

1 + 3

√

5

)

− 14

√

3

2

(

3−

√

5

)

0

1

4

√

3

2

(

3−

√

5

)

1

8

(

1 + 3

√

5

)

0

0

0

1

(A21)

Mathematics 2019, 7, 1001

18 of 18

R f1T′1

=

1

72

(

38 + 15

√

5

)

− 124

√

287− 380

√

5

3

1

9

√

2

1

24

√

83− 104

√

5

3

1

2 +

5

√

5

24

− 16

√

14− 16

√

5

3

−23+9

√

5

36

√

2

1

12

√

5

3

(

3 +

√

5

)

1

9

(

2 + 3

√

5

)

.

(A22)

The face centers c f0T0 and c

f1

T1

are:

c f0T0 =

(

0, 0,− 1

2

√

6

)

(A23)

c f1T1 =

(

−1 + 3

√

5

24

√

3

,− 1

12

√

1

2

(

3−

√

5

)

,− 7

6

√

6

)

.

(A24)

The intermediate tetrahedra T′0 and T

′

1 are given by:

T′0 :

v′00 =

(

0, 0,−

√

2

3

− 1

2

√

6

)

(A25)

v′01 =

(

− 1

2

√

3

,−1

2

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′02 =

(

− 1

2

√

3

,

1

2

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′03 =

(

1√

3

, 0,− 1

2

√

6

)

T′1 :

v′10 =

(

0, 0,− 5

2

√

6

)

(A26)

v′11 =

(

− 1

4

√

3

,−

√

5

4

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′12 =

(

1− 3

√

5

8

√

3

,

1

8

(

1 +

√

5

)

,− 1

2

√

6

)

v′13 =

(

− 5

72

(√

3 + 3

√

15

)

,− 5

24

(√

5− 1

)

,− 11

6

√

6

)

.

References

1.

Coxeter, H.S.M. Regular Complex Polytopes; Cambridge University: Cambridge, UK, 1974.

2.

Boerdijk, A.H. Some remarks concerning close-packing of equal spheres. Philips Res. Rep. 1952, 7, 30.

3.

Gray, R.W. Tetrahelix Data. Available online: http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/rbfnotes/helix/helix01.html

(accessed on 4 January 2013).

4.

Fang, F.; Irwin, K.; Kovacs, J.; Sadler, G. Cabinet of curiosities: The interesting geometry of the angle

β = arccos((3φ− 1)/4). arXiv 2013, arXiv:1304.1771.

5.

Fuller, B.R. Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking; Macmillan: London, UK, 1975.

6.

Suter, J. Geometric Algebra Primer. Available online: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Geometric-

Algebra-Primer-Suter/53cb5062e533706aeadfbd62a2d43fbe3754a007 (accessed on 8 October 2019).

7.

Lounesto, P. Clifford Algebras and Spinors; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 2001.

8.

Hestenes, D. New Foundations for Classical Mechanics; Springer: Berlin, Germany, 2012.

9.

Hanson, D. On a Theorem of Sylvester and Schur. Can. Math. Bull. 1973, 16, 2. [CrossRef]

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