spherical polyhedra

the "Campanus' sphere"

Very popular during the Renaissance, this polyhedron is composed with n rings of 2n faces.
Inscribe a regular 2n-gon in an "equatorial circle", then inscribe 2n-gons in n "meridian circles" using as vertices the two poles and two of the preceding points (opposite on the "equator-circle"). To complete the polyhedron connect the vertices of these n polygons with lines parallel to the equator.
For n=2 you get the regular octahedron.
Just for the fun, here is an approximation of an oblate spheroid (ellipsoid with two axis of same length, and the "polar axis" smaller).

Our earth looks like this polyhedron, but it is much nicer!

the "geodesic domes"

These polyhedra are constructed starting from Plato's polyhedra; a tessellation is drawn on each face and the central projection on the circumsphere defines the new vertices. Fuller widely popularized the structures based on this concept. Here are three examples constructed from the regular octahedron (triangulation in 9), dodecahedron (triangulation in 5) and icosahedron (triangulation in 4).

8x9=72 faces

12x5=60 faces

20x4=80 faces

distributing points on a sphere

There are different ways to distribute uniformly points on a sphere; Martin Trump used a model of n electrical particles linked on a sphere and stabilized the system; so he got a convex polyhedron Sn with n vertices.
We obviously expect to get "very symmetrical" configurations. For the small sets of points we actually find well known configurations with "rich" symmetries, but quickly the symmetry groups become impoverished while we get several stable configurations for a same number of points. For greater sets of points the polyhedra are reminiscent of geodesic domes, with sometimes a few quadrilaterals (not always squares). Here are three examples (data provided by Bob Allanson's applet, see references) where edges of same colour have same length and symmetry axes are dashed:
 

S15 : 26 faces, symmetry group C3
(one 3-fold symmetry axis, no symmetry plane)

S16 : 24+2 faces, symmetry group C4v
(one 4-fold symmetry axis and four planes)

an other S16 : 28 faces, symmetry group T
(four 3-fold symmetry axes, no plane)


references:   The Penguin dictionary of curious and interesting geometry by David Wells (Penguin Books, 1991).
Polyhedra (pages 106-107) by Peter R. Cromwell (Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Martin's Pretty Polyhedra  and the Repulsion Polyhedra Generator by Bob Allanson.
Distributing Points on a Sphere  by Paul Bourke.
a polyhedral celestial globe to be realize by yourself


  summary   March 2004
updated 08-07-2005