Wednesday, February 9, 2011

tessellation titillation

First of all, thanks to Cindy, Melissa, Anonymous and Lynda for participating. AWESOME and some super funny guesses. =) Lynda was right on. Ding! Ding! Ding!!

Wikipedia has a very thorough treatment of tessellation. Quoth the Wiki:

"A tessellation or tiling of the plane is a collection of plane figures that fills the plane with no overlaps and no gaps. One may also speak of tessellations of parts of the plane or of other surfaces. Generalizations to higher dimensions are also possible. Tessellations frequently appeared in the art of M. C. Escher...

In Latin, tessella is a small cubical piece of clay, stone or glass used to make mosaics.[1] The word "tessella" means "small square"...."

The context in which I learned this term was GIS, specifically turning a map of elevation points or lines into a 3-D, continuous surface. The computer does this work so then you have a cool surface to look at as landscape vs. a bunch of unconnected dots of varying height. Much easier to relate to. And more flexible re: data analysis.

Then, wiki went all Nature-y and talked about tessellation in nature. Like honeycombs (continuous surface comprised of hexagons) and: "Basaltic lava flows often display columnar jointing as a result of contraction forces causing cracks as the lava cools. The extensive crack networks that develop often produce hexagonal columns of lava."

One place where such features exist is Devil's Post Pile National Monument (DEPO, in NPS slang), which is not all that far from Yosemite and is part of the NPS Sierra Nevada network of parks (Yosemite, Devil's Post Pile, Sequoia and Kings Canyon).

AND I happened to do some stuff for the network once so ventured to DEPO to get a pic or two, including the above, the example of tessellation in nature which immediately sprung to mind after reading about such phenomena.

Check out the photo at the Devil's Post Pile web site, then imagine (if you've not done it) hiking to the top of that assemblage of columnar basalt and look down at your feet: the above is what you see.

TOO cool. And there's trees growing out of it and everything--freaky! And definitely something you must touch. Smoooooooth.


Anyhow, thanks for coming along with me on this adventure in tessellation.

AWESOME guesses by all, and I know I certainly enjoyed it and learned lots. Here's to following (up on) your dreams!




  1. I love the postpile! I need to revisit the eastern Sierras....

  2. oh, yeah, the eastern Sierra is SO SPECTACULAR, they should feel abashed. But, apparently, they do not. Just keep flaunting those mountains and lakes and crazy geologic features. "Oh, that. We hardly even notice anymore..." =)

  3. I'm heading to Yosemite in a week for a photography workshop. I think I will review some of your Yosemite keywords for inspiration.

  4. @Cindy, cool! I'll bet you'll have a great time. I think it may be horsetail fall time of year (February).

    Oh, and have you heard of "The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite" by Michael Frye? It's amazing. Tells you what time of year and day different features look their best--if I followed this thing I'd get some ROCKIN' photos. Maybe I should make that a late winter/spring goal? Best of luck at that workshop!!


Cool people write inside rectangles....