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What are some real-life examples of tessellations?

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Quick Answer

Turtle shells, honeycombs, raspberries, quilts, fish scales and the art of M.C. Escher are just a few examples of real-life tessellations. Tessellations are patterns that repeat over and over without overlapping or leaving any gaps. Additional examples are snake skins, pineapples, origami and tile floors.

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What are some real-life examples of tessellations?
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Full Answer

Many examples of tessellations can be found in Islamic architecture because the architects are not allowed to use human or animal figures, so they use a variety of different shapes arranged in patterns. Some of these shapes may be geometric, floral or calligraphic.

Tessellations can be regular, semi-regular or irregular. Equilateral triangles, squares and hexagons are regular polygons that easily tessellate because they are both regular and congruent. A soccer ball is a regular tessellation of hexagons. Semi-regular tessellations are formed when two or more regular polygons are arranged so every vertex is identical. Some tile floor patterns that use a smaller tile set between a repeating pattern of larger tiles are semi-regular tessellations. All tessellations that are not regular or semi-regular are considered irregular. A well-known painting by Escher depicts lizards in an irregular tessellation.

Tessellations also are known as tilings. In Latin, the word "tessera" means a small stone cube. In ancient Rome, the tessera were used to make tessellata, or mosaic pictures.

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