Sunday, January 31, 2016

A sonnet for Napoleon's Theorem

     In geometry, Napoleon's theorem (often attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769–1821) states that if equilateral triangles are constructed on the sides of any triangle, either all outward or all inward, the centers of those equilateral triangles themselves are the vertices of an equilateral triangle.  In a 2015 lecture at the  University of Maryland,  mathematician Douglas Hofstadter (perhaps best known for Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid -- Basic Books, 1970) presented Napoleon’s theorem by means of a sonnet.  Perhaps you will want to have pencil and paper available to draw as you read:

Napoleon's Theorem     by Douglas Hofstadter

Equilateral triangles three we’ll erect
Facing out on the sides of our friend ABC.
We’ll link up their centers, and when we inspect
These segments, we find tripartite symmetry.

Equilateral triangles three we’ll next draw
Facing in on the sides of our friend BCA.
Their centers we’ll link up, and what we just saw
Will enchant us again, in its own smaller way.

Napoleon triangles two we’ve now found.
Their centers seem close, and indeed that’s the case:
They occupy one and the same centroid place!

Our triangle pair forms a figure and ground,
Defining a six-edgéd torus, we see,
Whose area’s the same as our friend, CAB!

A video of Hofstadter's lecture is available here.

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