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by JAMES JACOBS

July 2003

page 1 | 2

Historically, simple geometric forms have been the basis for envisioning

structure in architecture. It follows that a study of advanced geometric forms

may provide the basis for envisioning advanced structures in architecture.

revealed since the discovery of the circle, square and triangle. The geometric

structural system of the fourth archetypal form, the spiral–in its 3-D form,

the the helix–has been uncovered and developed over the past 25 years by

the author.

Helical Geometry is the study of geometry within the tetrahedron, the most

fundamental of the 5 Platonic Solids of Solid Geometry.

tetrahedron, the Field Geometry

most basic of within the

the 5 Platonic tetrahedron

Solids

Helical Geometry is the geometry of the straight twisted rod (Fig. 3), in the

same way that Plane and Solid Geometry are the geometries of the straight

rod. (Fig. 4) These are two distinctly different representations of distance,

and so, two distinctly different approaches to understanding the geometric

properties of space.

Fig. 3 The straight twisted rod of Helical Geometry Plane and Solid Geometry

continue to be the basis for

the way we design and

build, as well as for the way

Fig. 4 The straight rod of Plane and Solid Geometry we think about the laws of

nature and how nature

builds. The new geometrical system of Helical Geometry, by redefining

distance in space as having a simultaneous measurable degrees-of-rotation,

or twist, has profound implications for the foundations of our existing

knowledge.

"rational." It is not too bold to suggest that Helical Geometry offers a

foundation for advancement in all areas of knowledge as it changes the way

we think about that most fundamental concept, distance in space. This article

discusses Helical Geometry, its correspondence with Nature, and its

incorporation of existing geometric knowledge.

nature, and the structural order of that symmetry in space. The search for

this understanding can be approached in two ways, numerically (i.e.

mathematically), or structurally. Modern science uses the mathematical

modeling approach, assuming that numerical models or formulas will reveal

the source of symmetry in space. The ancient Greek geometers used the

structural modeling approach, assuming that structural models would reveal

the source of symmetry in nature, and, express a numerical model, the

formula of a mathematical theorem.

between a geometric structure and the source of symmetry in space around

350 BC. He demonstrated that two of the properties of the source of

symmetry in Nature are the right angle and four-fold rotation. The archetypal

geometric form he used was the triangle containing a ninety-degree angle, a

plane right-angled triangle. He showed how this family of geometric

structures reveals a correspondence with nature’s symmetry in 2-dimensional

space.

its one right angle) in a fourfold pattern, its longest

side facing outward, and so generated the

symmetrical boundaries of a perfect square. Then, by

a redistribution of the triangles making up the

symmetrical pattern, he showed that the remaining

two sides of the right-angled triangle structure also

Fig. 5 The plane right- generated the symmetry of two perfect squares. And,

angled triangle's proof that these two squares of symmetry are contained

of correspondence with within and equivalent to the symmetry of the square

the 4-fold, 2-

of the longest side. (Fig. 5) This is true of all triangles

dimensional symmetry

having a right-angle, and not true of any other

in Nature.

archetypal geometric structure. (Ref: "The Ascent of

Man", Jacob Bronowski)

This unique type of 2-dimensional geometrical structure having a right-angle

visibly demonstrated its correspondence with nature’s symmetry in 2-

dimensional space. For this reason, the single unique property of this

geometrical structure, its right-angle, and, the fourfold rotation required to

generate the symmetry of the square, are considered to be properties of the

source of the symmetry in 2-dimensional space.

All plane right-angled triangles express a numerical model, the formula of the

mathematical theorem which states: The square of the longest side of the

plane right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the two

shortest sides, which is, c2=a2+b2, the formula of the Pythagorean Theorem,

the most important theorem in all mathematics. The plane right-angled

triangle expresses the Table of Natural Trigonometric Functions of Sines and

Cosines, without which there would be neither Newtons’s laws of nature, nor

Einstein’s Theories of Relativity. The validity of science’s natural laws and

universal theories, dependent as they are on the plane right-angled triangle,

speaks for the correspondence of this geometrical structure with Nature’s

symmetry, and the source of symmetry in 2-dimensional space. If there were

no such correspondence, then its numerical expressions of the plane right-

angled triangle would not have led to subsequent mathematical descriptions

corresponding with the laws of nature and universe.

ancient Greek geometer’s approach to understand the source of symmetry in

nature. It demonstrates its correspondence with the 3-dimensional symmetry

in space by the fourfold rotation of a unique geometrical structure, the helical

building panel, that mimics the 3-dimensional symmetry of the natural form

of a molecule-thin liquid membrane, the soap-film (Fig. 6). In addition,

Helical Geometry’s unique geometrical structure shows a direct

correspondence with the geometry of the plane right-angled triangle, and

expresses the Table of Natural Trigonometric Functions of Sines and Cosines,

but in 3-dimensional space as opposed to 2-dimensional space.

correspondence with the 4-fold, 3-dimensional symmetry in

Nature.

Source of Symmetry in Nature.

A nature-based way of designing and building begins with a nature-based

geometry. Helical Geometry is structural biomimicry, that is, its forms

structurally mimic the natural form of a soap film.

The helical form is universal, existing in every form of matter. From the

microcosmic, atomic structure of crystal growth to the molecular structure of

DNA to the macrocosmic spiral form of galaxies, all structure in matter

mimics the source of symmetry in Nature. Uncovering the 3-dimensional

geometry of the helical form in Nature, then, is to uncover the 3-dimensional

source of the symmetry in nature.

surface. Soap films form minimal surfaces because the energy of surface

tension in a soap film is proportional to its area. Nature always minimizes

energy expenditure, so soap films minimize area. For example, the natural

form of a soap film represents the surface of smallest area within a

framework of Plexiglas tubes.

stretched within a framework of Plexiglas tubes

demonstrates the natural basis for Helical Geometry.

When a soap film is suspended within a framework of

Plexiglas tubes that are strung like long cylindrical

Fig. 8 The helical edge beads we are able to observe its structural properties

(Fig. 7).

of the soap-film

At first glance the warped surfaces of the soap film

appear to resemble the familiar form called the hyperbolic-paraboloid, a

saddle-shaped surface generated by straight rods. But a significant difference

is seen under closer observation. The outer edges of the soap film, where it

adheres to the Plexiglas tubes, have a helical form. The minimal surface of

the soap film's edges twists around the Plexiglas tubes (Fig. 8). This is the

structural property of the natural surface form of a soap film that

distinguishes it from the hyperbolic-paraboloid, whose outer edges are

straight rods.

Fig. 9 Structurally mimicking the helical edges of the soap-film.

soap film form using a framework of flat, twistable rods

or struts. (Fig. 9) We can then mimic the surface form of

the soap film by extending flat, twistable struts between

the opposing helical edges of the framework. (Fig. 10).

[Note the four kite-shaped forms that generate the full

Fig. 10

Structurally helical framework by their 4-fold rotation]. The resulting

mimicking the system of "soap film rigid structures" may now be seen

soap film as segments or units of linear helical structures, rather

than as independent saddle-shapes. Linear helical

structures are generated by matching the helical edges of

the helical units. (Figs. 11, 12) These helical units are the

basic elements of Helical Geometry, a structure system

that mimics natural helical form.

plane right-angled triangle that generated the natural 2-

Fig. 11 dimensional symmetry of the plane square in

Matching the Pythagoras's demonstration of the correspondence of the

helical edges of 6 plane right-angled triangle with the source of symmetry

Helical Geometry in Nature. (Fig. 5). Likewise, it is the fourfold rotation in

Elements 3-dimensional space of the kite-like helical building panel

(Cos 45°) (Fig. 6), that generates the 3-dimensional helical

geometric structure that mimics the symmetry of the

soap film. (Fig. 7) This demonstrates the correspondence

of the elements of Helical Geometry with the source of

symmetry in Nature. The kite-like helical building panels

are like 3-dimensional right-angled triangles.

Fig. 12

Matching the

Knowledge

helical edges of

32 Helical "Does it incorporate previous knowledge?" "Does it

Geometry demonstrate undeniable correspondences with existing

Elements knowledge?" These are the crucial questions, the

(COs 45°) prerequisites, for a valid claim by any new knowledge to

an advance in the foundations of existing knowledge. Helical Geometry

satisfies these two questions by demonstrating the incorporation of the

knowledge represented by the plane right-angled triangle, and by its ability

to generate the archetypal forms of Plane and Solid Geometry.

You can point at the shortest edge of any helical building panel and say, "The

length of this shortest edge is the cosine of the degrees of rotation or twist

along its length (Fig. 13)." Likewise, you can point at the horizontal leg of a

plane right-angled triangle and say, "The length of this shortest edge is the

cosine of the degrees of rotation relative to the hypotenuse (Fig. 14)." Helical

Geometry incorporates the knowledge of the plane right-angled triangle,

transforming it into a 3-dimensional concept.

panels each represents a cosine ranging from 0 to 90

degrees. The kite-like helical panel represents the

Fig. 13 Fig. 14

number of degrees of rotation by the amount of twist

Cosine distance

(blue)

over the length of its shortest edge. And, its length is the

The 45° twisting cosine of the number of degrees of rotation or twist along

Cosine distance of the shortest edge. So, for example, the helical building

the helical panel in Figures 13 and 14, has 45 degrees of twist or

building panel rotation along the shortest edge. And, the length of this

(left), and the shortest edge is the cosine of 45°, or, .7071 in relation to

Plane Right- the constant length of the longest edge, which is 1.

angled Triangle

(right).

This trigonometric relationship is true for all the kite-like

helical building panels: As the length of the shortest edge

decreases the amount of twist, or degrees of rotation,

increases, and, the numerical relationship is the same as

Hypotenuse that of the Table of Natural Trigonometric Functions for

(blue) Sines and Cosines. This table of functions is derived from

Fig. 15 the 2-D system of structures, the plane right-angled

Helical Right triangle. We can liken the hypotenuse of the plane right-

Triangle (left), angled triangle to the longest edge of the helical building

Plane Right panel (Fig. 15), and the horizontal leg of the plane right-

Triangle (right)

angled triangle to the shortest edge of the helical

building panel (Figs. 13, 14). The difference is that the

plane right-angled triangle expresses its degrees of

rotation as a plane angle of rotation between 0 and 90

degrees, a 2-dimensional representation, while the

helical building panel expresses its degrees of rotation

over a distance, a helical angle of rotation or twist, a 3-

Fig. 16 dimensional representation. (Fig. 16) This is why the

The angle of helical building panels can be called "3-dimensional right-

plane rotation vs.

the angle of

helical rotation.

angled triangles", or "Helical Right Triangles", just as the 2-dimensional right-

angled triangles are called Plane Right Triangles.

of Plane and Solid Geometry

Imagine that we had never seen the geometric structures of Plane and Solid

Geometry, never seen a circle, square, triangle, sphere, cube or pyramid. If

all we knew was Helical Geometry it would reveal to us all of these archetypal

geometric structures. And this stands to reason. If Helical Geometry

represents an advance in geometrical knowledge, then, it should be able to

generate in its geometrical configurations the geometrical structures of Plane

and Solid Geometry, the geometries that historically preceded Helical

Geometry.

with lattice surfaces represent a geometrical system of fields having helical,

saddle-shaped form. Using the building panels of Helical Geometry we can

make models in which the panels intersect one another, matching their

helical edges at the intersections. Matching the helical edges means that we

are following the "logical rules of connection" inherent in the Helical

Geometry panels or fields. A logical connection is one in which the degrees of

twist and direction (left or right), and, the corresponding length at the

connection of two intersecting or edge-connecting helical panels, match or

coincide.

in which 96 kite-like panels intersect to generate the outward form of two

interpenetrating tetrahedrons. Within this configuration of logically

intersecting helical fields of form can be seen an empty space. It is a space

that is defined by the inner surfaces of the helical fields of form. Looking

closer we can see that within the configuration of intersecting fields of helical

form has been generated the plane geometry of the circle, square and

triangle; and the solid geometry of the sphere, cube and pyramid (Figs. 17,

18). So, while Helical Geometry cannot be generated from Plane or Solid

Geometry, Plane and Solid Geometry can be generated from Helical

Geometry. Helical Geometry, then, can be said to be "prior to" Plane and

Solid Geometry, which is to say it incorporates existing geometrical

knowledge and represents an advance in fundamental geometrical

knowledge.

Figs. 17, 18

Within Helical Geometry's intersecting tetrahedrons (on

right in photos), is generated the archetypal forms of

Plane and Solid Geometry (on left)

knowledge. It promises the foundation for visionary applications of advanced

architectural design that is organic, ecological and evolutionary. It is a

nature-based geometry that embodies a synthesis of form and function. Its

varied structural forms promise sensitivity to the environment, simplicity in

application and economics, and natural elegance.

multitudes of one or more types of the kite-like building panels of Helical

Geometry. How Helical Geometry has been used to date in modeling and

constructions, and instructions on how to fabricate helical building panels for

modeling and construction will be subjects of future writings.

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