Radical Sheet

If you take a sheet of standard-sized paper and fold it in half from top to bottom, the folded sheet has the same proportions as the original, namely √2 : 1. In other words, if x = √2 / 2, then 1 / x = √2:

√2 = 1.414213562373…, √2 / 2 = 0.707106781186…, 1 / 0.707106781186… = 1.414213562373…

So you could say that paper has radical sheet (the square or other root of a number is also called its radix and √ is known as the radical sign). When a rectangle has the proportions √2 : 1, it can be tiled with an infinite number of copies of itself, the first copy having ½ the area of the original, the second ¼, the third ⅛, and so on. The radical sheet below is tiled with ten diminishing copies of itself, the final two having the same area:

papersizes

papersizes_static

You can also tile a radical sheet with six copies of itself, two copies having ¼ the area of the original and four having ⅛:

paper_6div_static

paper_6div

This tiling is when you might say the radical turns crucial, because you can create a fractal cross from it by repeatedly dividing and discarding. Suppose you divide a radical sheet into six copies as above, then discard two of the ⅛-sized rectangles, like this:

paper_cross_1

Stage 1


Then repeat with the smaller rectangles:

paper_cross_2

Stage 2


paper_cross_3

Stage 3


paper_cross_4

Stage 4


paper_cross_5

Stage 5


paper_cross

Animated version

paper_cross_static

Fractile cross

The cross is slanted, but it’s easy to rotate the original rectangle and produce an upright cross:

paper_cross_upright

paper_cross_upright_static

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