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THE NEW FEDERALIST November 27, 1987 Page 8

American Almanac
The Geometrical Properties of Cardinal
Nicolaus of Cusa's 'Infinite Circle'
by Robert Gallagher
Renaissance architects, students of geometer Nicholas of Cusa, often used
circular designs, particularly in churches, to evoe the conception of God as
the unifying principle of universal perfection! Above, a detail of Raphael's
Marriage of the Virgin.
In the Aug. 28 issue of New Federalist's American Amanac, Robert
Gallagher challenged our readers to wrestle with a problem in geometry
that he asserted was by its nature impossible to sole. Benoit Chalifoux
!"ontreal# and Anders Best !$an Francisco# proposed interesting solutions%
now reported in this follow&up.
In !"e 1#!" cen!$r%, &ar'ina Nicoa$( o) &$(a *1+,1-.+/ )o$n'e' !"e
mo'ern (cien!i)ic o$!oo01 T"ro$g" ($c" 2ri!ing( a( "i( 1++# 'e docta
ignorantia *34n Learne' Ignorance3/, &$(a in!ervene' in !"e 2or0 o)
(cience in "i( 'a%1 A! !"a! !ime, a( no2, mo(! (cien!i(!( beieve' !"e
)o$n'a!ion( o) (cien!i)ic in5$ir% re(!e' 6rimari% $6on care)$ mea($remen!
o) 2"a! 2e e76erience 2i!" o$r (en(e(, an' genera% re8ec!e' !"e i'ea !"a!
$niver(a 6rinci6e( ("o$' g$i'e !"e )orm$a!ion o) "%6o!"e(e(, !"e
carr%ing-o$! o) e76erimen!(, or !"e ma0ing o) ob(erva!ion(1
&$(a em6"a(i9e' !"a! (cien!i(!( m$(! oo0 be%on' 2"a! !"e% can mea($re
2i!" !"eir (en(e( an' in(!r$men!(, !o 'i(cover !"e a2( $n'er%ing !"e
$niver(e, !"a! !"e% m$(! oo0 be%on' !"e )ini!e !o2ar' !"e in)ini!e1 In 'e
docta ignorantia% &$(a 2ro!e:
Sen(e 0no2e'ge i( a imi!e' 0in' o) 0no2e'ge1 T"e (en(e( 0no2
on% !"e in'ivi'$a ob8ec!1 &om6are' !o (en(e-0no2e'ge, in!eec!$a
0no2e'ge o) !"e $niver(a, i( ab(o$!e; i! i( ab(!rac!e' )rom !"e
imi!a!ion( o) !"e 6ar!ic$ar1 1 1 1 T"e more 2e ab(!rac! )rom (en(e
con'i!ion(, !"e more cer!ain an' (oi' o$r 0no2e'ge i(1
To comm$nica!e !"i( i'ea !o men immer(e' in (en(e e76erience, &$(a
em6"a(i9e' !"e nee' !o 'eveo6 a 6e'agog% !"ro$g" 2"ic" !o conve% ($c"
conce6!( via 2"a! can be e76erience' b% !"e (en(e(1 T"e &ar'ina
'eveo6e' !"e $(e o) (%n!"e!ic geome!rica con(!r$c!ion( )or !"i( roe1
For !"e rea'er 2e m$(! $(e 'ra2ing( a( i$(!ra!ion(, b$! "e m$(! ri(e
above !"e(e, an' eave a(i'e 2"a! i( (en($o$( in !"em, in or'er !o
arrive $nim6e'e' a! 2"a! i( 6$re% incor6orea1
In !"e (ec!ion o) 'e docta ignorantia 'evo!e' !o (%n!"e!ic geome!r%, &$(a
goe( rig"! !o !"e 6oin!: <e%on' !"e ream o) 6ar!ic$ar )ini!e e76erience,
!"ere e7i(!( !"e !ran()ini!e, 2"a! &$(a cae' 3T"e =a7im$m,3 !"e or'ering
o) &rea!ion !"a! canno! be e76aine' b% mec"ani(!ic ma!eriai(! in!erac!ion(1
T"e &ar'ina i$(!ra!e' !"i( conce6! b% con(!r$c!ing an 3in)ini!e circe,3 a
circe 2"o(e circ$m)erence i( in)ini!e% ong, (o !"a! in )ini!e e76erience, i!(
circ$m)erence a66ear( a( a (!raig"! ine1
He i$(!ra!e' !"e !ran()orma!ion )rom !"e c$rve' !o !"e (!raig"! 2i!" a
'iagram !"a! ("o2( "o2 !"e arc o) a circe converge( !o a (!raig"! ine a( !"e
circe gro2( arger an' arger *(ee Fig1 1/1
Since !"e c$rva!$re o) !"e circ$m)erence become( e(( a( !"e circe
e76an'(, !"e circ$m)erence o) !"e ab(o$!e% grea!e(! 6o((ibe circe,
2i be !"e (mae(! 6o((ibe c$rve; i! 2i be, !"ere)ore, ab(o$!e%
(!raig"!1 T"e ma7im$m an' !"e minim$m "ere coinci'e in(o)ar a( 2e
mo(! cear% 6erceive !"a! in !"e in)ini!e !"ere i( !"e ab(o$!e ma7i-
m$m o) (!raig"!ne(( 2i!" !"e ab(o$!e minim$m o) c$rva!$re1
"igure #!
This figure from Cardinal Nicolaus of Cusa's $%n &earned Ignorance,$
illustrates the nonlinear transformation from finite circles G', (", and C),
to the $infinite circle$ A*, +hose circumference is a straight line!
In !"i( 2a%, &$(a 'eveo6e' (%n!"e!ic geome!r% a( !"e (!$'% o) !ran()orma-
!ion(, ra!"er !"an o) in'ivi'$a geome!rica )ig$re(1 He em6"a(i9e' !"a!
!ran()orma!ion( are on!oogica% 6rior !o a (6eci)ic con(!r$c!ion(1
He 2"o 2o$' gra(6 !"e =a7im$m in a (im6e in!$i!ion, m$(! ri(e
above !"e 'i))erence( an' 'iver(i!ie( o) !"ing( an' above a ma!"e-
ma!ica )ig$re(1
Pro,ective Properties of Circles
&$(a>( me!"o' 2a( a'o6!e' b% !"e grea! geome!er( o) "i(!or%?Leonar'o 'a
@inci, Ao"anne( Be6er, Co!!)rie' Leibni9, Bar Ca$((, Aacob S!einer,
<ern"ar' Riemann, an' Ceorg &an!or1
S!einer 'eveo6e' &$(a>( con(!r$c!ion o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe3 )$r!"er in "i(
2or0 in 6ro8ec!ive geome!r%, in 6ar!ic$ar in "i( 182,( General (heory of
(angency and Intersection of )ircles and $pheres. S!einer ("o2e' a 2a% !o
rea!e a circe o) )ini!e (i9e 2i!" an 3in)ini!e circe3 (o !"a!, !o 6oin!( o) !"e
(ma circe, 'e)ini!e 6oin!( o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe3 co$' be )o$n' !o corre-
(6on', b% a rigoro$( geome!rica ma66ing 6roce'$re1 &er!ain 6oin!( o) !"e
)ini!e circe, "o2ever, canno! be ma66e' !o !"e in)ini!e circe1 T"ere i( a
'i(con!in$i!% be!2een in)ini!e an' )ini!e1
In re(6on(e !o !"e c"aenge I ma'e !o New Federalist rea'er( in !"e A$g1 28
i(($e, !o !r% an' )in' a 2a% !o ma6 !"e 6oin!( a! !"e area o) 'i(con!in$i!%,
<enoi! &"ai)o$7 an' An'er( <e(! (en! in con(!r$c!ion( !"a! ("e' )$r!"er
ig"! on !"e geome!rica 6ro6er!ie( o) &$(a>( 3in)ini!e circe13 <e)ore 2e
'i(c$(( !"e(e 6ro6er!ie( 2e m$(! )ir(! ($mmari9e S!einer>( 6roce'$re )or
ma66ing circe( on!o eac" o!"er1
"igure -a! "igure -b!
Construction of e.ternal and /apping corresponding points
internal points of similarity from one finite circle to
of t+o circles! another using parallel radii!
Dra2 !2o circe( = an' => !"a! ie o$!(i'e eac" o!"er1 T"e(e circe(
'e!ermine !2o $ni5$e 6air( o) !angen!(, ine( !"a! 8$(! !o$c" eac" circe once
?one 6air o) !angen!( !"a! cro(( be!2een !"e !2o circe( an' in!er(ec! a!
6oin! I, an' ano!"er 6air o) !angen!( !"a! enveo6( !"e circe( an' in!er(ec!(
a! 6oin! A *(ee Fig1 2a/1 S!einer cae' !"e(e !2o 6oin!( !"e in!erna an'
e7!erna 36oin!( o) (imiari!%13 We can )in' 6oin!( in circe => !"a! $ni5$e%
corre(6on' !o 6oin!( in circe =, $(ing ei!"er 6oin! o) (imiari!% a( a cen!er
o) 6ro8ec!ion1 For e7am6e, 2e can ma6 an arbi!rari% c"o(en 6oin! P in
circe = in!o circe => b% mean( o) !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!%, I1
S!ar! b% 'ra2ing a ra'i$( )rom !"e cen!er o) circe = !"ro$g" 6oin! P *(ee
Fig1 2b/1 T"i( ra'i$( in!er(ec!( !"e circ$m)erence o) !"e circe = a! a
'e)ini!e 6oin! <1 No2 'ra2 a ine )rom < !"ro$g" !"e in!erna 6oin! o)
(imiari!% I, $n!i i! in!er(ec!( circe => on !"e o!"er (i'e1 We 2i ca !"i(
6oin! o) in!er(ec!ion <>1 T"i( 6oin! <> i( !"e 6oin! o) circe => !"a! $ni5$e%
corre(6on'( !o 6oin! < o) circe =, b% !"i( (im6e ma66ing o) (imiari!%1
No2 'ra2 !"e ra'i$( =><> in circe =>1 T"i( ra'i$( corre(6on'( !o ra'i$(
=< o) circe =1 No!ice !"a! !"e% r$n 6arae !o eac" o!"er1 Since ra'i$(
=><> corre(6on'( !o ra'i$( =<, !"e 6oin! o) circe => !"a! corre(6on'( !o
6oin! P o) ra'i$( =< in circe =, m$(! ie on ra'i$( =><>1 To )in' !"i( 6oin!
P>, 'ra2 a ine )rom P !"ro$g" !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% $n!i i!
in!er(ec!( ra'i$( =><>1 T"e 6oin! o) in!er(ec!ion i( P>1
Transformation of "inite to Infinite
=a66ing !"e 6oin!( o) one )ini!e circe !o ano!"er i( ea(%1 No2, "o2 'o 2e
rea!e !2o circe( 6ro8ec!ive% i) one o) !"em i( in)ini!e% argeD
Imagine !"a! circe => in Fig1 2a gro2( in (i9e in'e)ini!e% 2"ie !"e 6oin! A>
*2"ere i!( circ$m)erence in!er(ec!( !"e a7i( connec!ing !"e cen!er( o) circe(
=> an' =/ remain( )i7e'1 A( circe => gro2(, i!( ra'i$( eng!"en( an' i!(
cen!er i( 6$("e' )ar!"er an' )ar!"er a2a% )rom !"e (maer circe1 E!ima!e-
%, !"e cen!er i( in)ini!e% 'i(!an!, !"e ra'ii are in)ini!e% ong, an' !"e cir-
c$m)erence o) !"e circe, 2"ic" i( i!(e) in)ini!e% ong, i( 6er6en'ic$ar !o
!"e a7i( connec!ing !"e cen!er( a! 6oin! A>, a( ("o2n in Fig1 Fa1
Ho2 i( !"e 6o(i!ion o) !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% a))ec!e' b% !"i(
!ran()orma!ionD A( circe => become( arger an' arger, !"e ange be!2een
!"e in!erna !angen!( become( arger an' arger, a( !"e !angen!( o6en $6 !o
accommo'a!e !"e gro2ing circe =>1 T"e )ini!e circe = )i!( more an' more
in!o !"e a6e7 o) !"e ange ma'e b% !"e !angen!(, a( !"a! ange 2i'en(1 T"e
in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% con(e5$en!% move( co(er an' co(er !o !"e
circ$m)erence o) circe =1
Fina%, 2"en circe => become( 3in)ini!e% arge,3 !"e ange be!2een !"e
!2o !angen!( o6en( $6 !o 18, 'egree( *a (!raig"! ine, or no ange/; !"e%
coa6(e in!o a (inge !angen!, a (!raig"! ine 6er6en'ic$ar !o !"e a7i( =>=
2"ere !"a! a7i( in!er(ec!( !"e (ma circe a! I *(ee Fig1 Fa/1 I! 2i !o$c" !"e
in)ini!e circe a! on% one 6oin!?a 6oin! a! in)ini!%1 Poin! I a! !"e in!er(ec-
!ion o) !"e circ$m)erence o) circe = an' !"e a7i( connec!ing !"e cen!er( o)
bo!" circe(, i( !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!%1 Simiar%, a( 'i(c$((e' in !"e
A$g1 28 i(($e, !"e !2o e7!erna !angen!( a(o coa6(e in!o one, 'e!ermining
!"e e7!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% A !o be a! !"e o!"er en' o) circe = )rom
6oin! I1
"igure 0a! "igure 0b!
Construction of e.ternal point /apping points from a finite
of similarity A and internal point of circle / to an $infinite
similarity, I, bet+een a finite and circle$ via corresponding
an $infinite$ circle! radii!
We ma6 corre(6on'ing 6oin!( )rom a )ini!e circe !o an in)ini!e circe in !"e
(ame 2a% a( 2e 'i' above be!2een !2o )ini!e circe(, b% )in'ing
corre(6on'ing ra'ii1 T"e 6ec$iari!% o) !"e in)ini!e circe i( !"a! a ra'ii are
6arae !o eac" o!"er, (ince !"e% emana!e )rom an in)ini!e% 'i(!an! 6oin!;
!"e% are a 6er6en'ic$ar !o !"e (!raig"! ine 'eno!ing !"e vi(ibe 6or!ion o)
i!( circ$m)erence1
To ma6 6oin! P )rom !"e )ini!e circe = !o !"e in)ini!e circe =>, re6ea! !"e
6roce'$re ("o2n in Fig1 2b1 Dra2 ra'i$( =< !"ro$g" P, an' 6ro8ec! 6oin! <
!"ro$g" !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% !o )in' 6oin! <> on !"e circ$m)erence
o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe3 *(ee Fig1 Fb/1 Since a ra'ii o) a circe are 6er6en-
'ic$ar !o !"eir circ$m)erence, !o )in' !"e ra'i$( on 2"ic" <> ie(, (im6%
con(!r$c! a 6er6en'ic$ar !o !"e circ$m)erence a! <>1 T"i( 6er6en'ic$ar
=><> i( !"e ra'i$( o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe3 !"a! corre(6on'( !o ra'i$( =< o)
!"e )ini!e circe1
To )in' !"e 6oin! P> !"a! corre(6on'( !o 6oin! P o) !"e )ini!e circe, 6ro8ec!
6oin! P !"ro$g" !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% $n!i !"e ine o) 6ro8ec!ion
in!er(ec!( !"e ra'i$( =><> o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe13 T"i( 6oin! o) in!er(ec!ion i(
6oin! P>1
"igure 1a! "igure 1b!
/apping points along the a.is /apping points along
connecting t+o finite circles the a.is via corresponding
via corresponding secants! concentric circular arcs!

Points of (.ception
T"e 6roce'$re o) )in'ing corre(6on'ing ra'ii, 6ermi!( $( !o ma6 !"e 6oin!(
o) one )ini!e circe in!o ano!"er, or !"e 6oin!( o) a )ini!e circe in!o an
3in)ini!e circe,3 e7ce6! )or !"o(e 6oin!( !"a! ie aong !"e a7i( ==>
connec!ing !"e cen!er( o) !"e circe(1 Since !"e ra'ii on 2"ic" !"e(e 6oin!(
ie, ie aong !"e a7i(, !"ere i( no 2a% !o )in' a $ni5$e 3ine o) (ig"!3 !o
6ro8ec! a 6oin! aong !"e a7i( !"e 2a% 2e can )or 6oin!( no! aong !"e a7i(, a(
in Fig1 2b1 For !"e ca(e o) )ini!e circe( 2e can $(e !"e 6ro6er!% o) !"e
(imiari!% o) a )ini!e circe( !o eac" o!"er, !o con(!r$c! corre(6on'ing
(ecan!(, or corre(6on'ing arc(, !o 6ro8ec! an% 6oin! o) eac" circe on!o i!(
corre(6on'ing 6oin! in !"e o!"er1 <$! (ince )ini!e circe( an' 3in)ini!e
circe(3 are no! (imiar, !"e(e me!"o'( canno! be $(e' !o ma6 one on!o !"e
o!"er1 In 6a((ing )rom !"e c$rve' )ini!e circe !o !"e (!raig"! 3in)ini!e circe,3
2e 6a(( !"ro$g" a 'i(con!in$i!%1
To ma6 a 6oin! P o) circe = aong !"e a7i( connec!ing !2o )ini!e circe(,
'ra2 a (ecan!? an arbi!rar% ine !"ro$g" circe =?!"a! in!er(ec!( 6oin! P
*(ee Fig1 +a/1 T"en ma6 !"e !2o 6oin!( < an' &, a! 2"ic" !"e (ecan!
in!er(ec!( !"e circ$m)erence, on!o !"e circ$m)erence o) !"e o!"er )ini!e circe
!o )in' !"e 6oin!( <> an' & 2"ere !"e corre(6on'ing (ecan! m$(! in!er(ec! !"e
circ$m)erence o) !"a! circe =>1 Poin! P>, 2"ic" corre(6on'( !o !"e 6oin! P
%ing aong !"e a7i( in circe =, i( !"e in!er(ec!ion o) (ecan! <>& an' !"e a7i(
==>1
Secan!( can be $(e' !o ma6 corre(6on'ing 6oin!( !"a! ie aong !"e a7i(
connec!ing !2o )ini!e circe(, b$! "o2 co$' !"e% be $(e' in !"e in)ini!e
ca(eD A (ecan! i( a ine connec!ing an% !2o 6oin!( on a circ$m)erence1 In
!"e in)ini!e ca(e, i) !"a! ine 2ere (!raig"!, i! 2o$' coinci'e 2i!" !"e
circ$m)erence1 I) a (ecan! in an 3in)ini!e circe3 i( c$rve', "o2 co$' 2e
'e!ermine !"e co$r(e !"a! !"a! c$rve 2o$' !a0e be!2een !"e circ$m)erence
an' 3in)ini!%3D
An'er( <e(! ($gge(!e' ano!"er 2a% !o ma6 6oin!( aong !"e a7i( connec!ing
)ini!e circe(, b% con(!r$c!ing corre(6on'ing concen!ric circ$ar arc(1
&"oo(e an arbi!rar% 6oin! P aong !"e a7i( in circe = *(ee Fig1 +b/1 Dra2
!"e arc GPR !"ro$g" 6oin! P, an' 'ra2 !"e ra'ii =GS an' =RT1 No2 2e
can ma6 !"e 6oin!( S an' T a! 2"ic" !"e(e ra'ii in!er(ec! !"e circ$m)erence
o) circe = !"ro$g" !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% !o 6oin!( S> an' T> o)
circe =>, beca$(e 2e can )in' a $ni5$e ine o) (ig"! )or !"em1
We !"en 'ra2 !"e ra'ii =>S> an' =>T> !"a! corre(6on' !o ra'ii =S an' =T o)
circe =>, an' 6ro8ec! 6oin!( G an' R !"ro$g" !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!%
!o )in' !"eir corre(6on'ing 6oin!( G> an' R>, 2"ic" ie on ra'ii =>S> an'
=>T>1 Wi!" o$r com6a(( 2e 'ra2 !"e circ$ar arc 'e)ine' b% !"e(e 6oin!(
abo$! =>1 T"e 6oin! a! 2"ic" !"a! arc R>G> in!er(ec!( !"e a7i(, i( P>, !"e 6oin!
corre(6on'ing !o 6oin! P o) circe =1
"igure 1c!
Concentric arcs in a finite circle map to straight lines in the $infinite circle!$
We no2 "ave ano!"er me!"o' )or ma66ing corre(6on'ing 6oin!( !"a! ie
aong !"e a7i( connec!ing !2o )ini!e circe(, b$! !"i( me!"o' a(o canno! be
$(e' !o ma6 !"e(e 6oin!( in !"e in)ini!e ca(e1 &oncen!ric circ$ar arc( 2i!"in
!"e )ini!e circe, ma6 !o (!raig"! ine( in !"e in)ini!e circe 2"ic" in!er(ec! a!
6oin! A> on !"e circ$m)erence o) !"e in)ini!e circe *(ee Fig1 +c/1
In !"e !ran(i!ion )rom !"e )ini!e !o !"e in)ini!e 2e 6a(( !"ro$g" a rea
'i(con!in$i!%, an' (o in !"e A$g1 28 i(($e I o))ere' 3!"e 6ri9e o) a )ree co6%
o) !"e Engi(" ang$age !ran(a!ion o) S!einer>( )onstructions *ith a
$traight +dge Gien a Fi,ed )ircle and its )enter% !o an%one 2"o can inven!
a (%n!"e!ic con(!r$c!ion )or )in'ing 6oin!( !"a! corre(6on' be!2een !"e )ini!e
circe an' !"e in)ini!e circe aong !"eir a7i(, 2i!" re(6ec! !o ei!"er 6oin! o)
(imiari!%13
<enoi! &"ai)o$7 (en! in a con(!r$c!ion )or ma66ing "a) !"e a7i( o) !"e
)ini!e circe in!o !"e 3in)ini!e circe13 He !"ere)ore receive( !"e 6ri9e1
Ho2ever, a( =r1 &"ai)o$7>( (o$!ion ("o2(, on% one-"a) o) !"e a7i( o) !"e
)ini!e circe can be ma66e' in!o !"e in)ini!e one; !"e o!"er "a) canno! be
ma66e', an' (o !"e c"aenge (!an'( vin'ica!e'1 T"e 6robem "a( no
(o$!ion beca$(e in na!$re, !"e )ini!e an' !"e in)ini!e are incommen($rabe1
In !"i( 2a% 2e (ee !"a! geome!rica !ran()orma!ion( can in(!r$c! $( !"a! !"ere
are )$n'amen!a c"arac!eri(!ic( o) !"e $niver(e !"a! canno! be (en(e'
'irec!%; !"e% are incor6orea1
An (lliptical "unction2
=r1 &"ai)o$7 a66ie' !"e 6roce'$re re6re(en!e' in Fig1 Fb, !o ma6 a (!raig"!
ine 6arae !o !"e circ$m)erence o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe3 in!o !"e )ini!e circe
*(ee Fig1 #/1 T"e re($!ing image i( an ei6(e, 2"ic" "a( one o) i!( !2o )oci
a! !"e cen!er o) !"e )ini!e circe1 4n !"e o!"er "an', i) 2e con(!r$c! an ei6(e
in(i'e !"e )ini!e circe 2"o(e cen!er (erve( a( one )oc$( o) !"e ei6(e 2"ic"
e7!en'( !o !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% I, !"e ei6(e 2i 6ro8ec! in!o !"e
in)ini!e circe a( a (!raig"! ine1 T"e 6oin! P a! 2"ic" !"e ei6(e in!er(ec!(
!"e a7i( ==> connec!ing !"e circe(, corre(6on'( !o 6oin! P> a! 2"ic" !"e
(!raig"! ine 6arae !o !"e circ$m)erence o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe,3 in!er(ec!(
!"e (ame a7i(1
We 0no2 !"a! !"e image o) !"e (!raig"! ine i( ac!$a% an ei6(e )or !"e
)oo2ing rea(on(1
1/ <eca$(e !"e (!raig"! ine i( (%mme!ric abo$! !"e a7i(, !"e image o) !"e
(!raig"! ine, in(i'e !"e )ini!e circe, m$(! a(o be (%mme!ric abo$! !"e a7i(1
2/ T"e 6oin!( on !"e (!raig"! ine in)ini!e% 'i(!an! )rom !"e a7i(, 2i 6ro8ec!
!o !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% I, an' !"e 6oin!( near !"e a7i( in !"e in)ini!e
circe 2i 6ro8ec! near !o (ome o!"er 6oin! on !"e a7i( in !"e )ini!e circe1
T"e re($!ing image 2i !"$( be a co(e' c$rve (%mme!ric abo$! !"e a7i(1
"igure 3!
'alf the a.is of a finite circle can be mapped into the $infinite circle$ via an
ellipse!
F/ I) 2e can 6rove !"a! !"e co(e' c$rve i( a conic?!"a! i(, a c$rve genera!e'
b% a c$! !"ro$g" a cone?!"en, (ince i! i( a co(e' c$rve, i! m$(! be ei!"er a
circe or an ei6(e1 <% Pa(ca>( T"eorem, !"e image i( a conic1 Since !"e
image i( a(%mme!ric in !"e 'irec!ion 6er6en'ic$ar !o !"e a7i( connec!ing !"e
circe(, i! i( no! a circe, b$! an ei6(e1
T"ere are (evera in!ere(!ing !"ing( !o no!e abo$! =r1 &"ai)o$7>(
con(!r$c!ion 2"ic" i$(!ra!e !"e 'i(con!in$i!% be!2een !"e )ini!e an' !"e
in)ini!e1
1/ W"en ma66ing )ini!e circe( !o )ini!e circe(, !"e en!ire!% o) one circe i(
ma66e' on!o !"e en!ire% o) !"e o!"er1 <$! in !"e ca(e o) !"e 3in)ini!e circe,3
on% i!( 3bo!!om "a) i( acce((ibe1 We ma6 !"e en!ire )ini!e circe on!o !"i(
3bo!!om "a)13
Ever% 6o((ibe ine in !"e in)ini!e circe, 6arae !o i!( circ$m)erence,
corre(6on'( !o an ei6(e in !"e )ini!e circe1 T"e )$r!"er !"i( ine i( )rom !"e
circ$m)erence o) !"e in)ini!e circe, !"e more eccen!ric *or e(( i0e a circe/
2i i!( ei6!ica image be1 For a ine 3in)ini!e% 'i(!an!,3 !"e ei6!ica image
coa6(e( in!o !"e ine (egmen! =I1
2/ T"$( 2e (!i canno! ma6 !"e 2"oe a7i(1 Since !"e ei6(e in !"e )ini!e
circe m$(! "ave !"e cen!er a( one )oc$(, !"e 6oin!( be!2een = an' I canno!
be ma66e' via !"e in!erna 6oin! o) (imiari!% !o !"e 3in)ini!e circe3 a! a1 A
(ecan! 'ra2n !"ro$g" !"e $66er "a) o) !"e )ini!e circe, 6er6en'ic$ar !o !"e
a7i( I=, 2i 6ro8ec! in!o !"e in)ini!e circe a( a "%6erboa1 T"e 6oin! 2"ere
!"e (ecan! in!er(ec!( !"e a7i( I=, 2o$' "ave !o corre(6on' !o a 6oin! o)
in!er(ec!ion o) !"e !2o branc"e( o) !"e "%6erboa1 <$! !"e branc"e( o) a
"%6erboa never in!er(ec!H T"e a7i( I= canno! be ma66e' in!o !"e in)ini!e
circe1 &on(i(!en! 2i!" !"i(, a (ecan! 'ra2n !"ro$g" !"e o2er "a) o) !"e
)ini!e circe ma6( in!o !"e in)ini!e circe a( an ei6(e1
In ma66ing )rom )ini!e circe( !o in)ini!e circe( via !"e in!erna 6oin! o)
(imiari!% I, !"e a7i( I= i( a 'i(con!in$i!%, a c$! !"ro$g" !"e ma66ing1 T"ere
i( no con!in$o$( ma66ing in!o !"e in)ini!e circe )rom one (i'e o) a7i( I= in
!"e )ini!e circe !o !"e o!"er1 I! i( a( i) !"e 3in)ini!e circe3 2ere )orme' b%
c$!!ing a (i! in a )ini!e circe )rom !"e 6oin!( I !o =, an' ao2ing i! !o 3gro2
o$!3 in!o an in)ini!e 6ane1 In 2or0ing 2i!" !"e(e )ini!e *on 6a6er/
geome!rica geome!rica )ig$re(, 2e 5$ic0% coi'e 2i!" !"e !ran()ini!e1
A( &$(a 2ro!e: 3I) 2e 2an! !o reac" !"e Ab(o$!e =a7im$m !"ro$g" !"e
)ini!e, 2e m$(!, in !"e )ir(! 6ace, (!$'% )ini!e, ma!"ema!ica )ig$re( a( !"e%
are, name% a mi7!$re o) 6o!enc% an' ac!13
-eth )ohen and Richard Freeman contributed some of the ideas that went
into this ar!ice1