Example of a Persian design with wallpaper group type "p6m" Image credit: Owen Jones
A wallpaper group is a mathematical concept used to classify repetitive designs on two-dimensional surfaces, such as floors and walls, based on the symmetries in the pattern. Such patterns occur frequently in architecture and decorative art. The mathematical study of such patterns reveals that exactly 17 different types of pattern can occur.
Wallpaper groups are examples of an abstract algebraic structure known as a group. Groups are frequently used in mathematics to study the notion of symmetry. Wallpaper groups are related to the simpler frieze groups, and to the more complex three-dimensional crystallographic groups. (Full article...)
A hypotrochoid is a curve traced out by a point "attached" to a smaller circle rolling around inside a fixed larger circle. In this example, the hypotrochoid is the red curve that is traced out by the red point 5 units from the center of the black circle of radius 3 as it rolls around inside the blue circle of radius 5. A special case is a hypotrochoid with the inner circle exactly one-half the radius of the outer circle, resulting in an ellipse (see an animation showing this). Mathematical analysis of closely-related curves called hypocycloids lead to special Lie groups. Both hypotrochoids and epitrochoids (where the moving circle rolls around on the outside of the fixed circle) can be created using the Spirograph drawing toy. These curves have applications in the "real world" in epicyclic and hypocycloidal gearing, which were used in World War II in the construction of portable radar gear and may be used today in 3D printing.