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3. The star of red pyramids or a blast from the past

3. The star of red pyramids or a blast from the past

It happened many moons ago…            


I was riding a trolleybus along a typical dull Leningrad’s street. The weather was normal, the ride was annoying as usual…
The heck with the ride!

I just bought a great book. It was a math book full of useful information… The heck with math! – on the cover there was a picture of the first stellation of a dodecahedron, and that was really something. There was no Internet, no computers, no imaging of any kind, so this picture was really worth a thousand words. I had been looking at it the entire ride. 

That’s by the way is how I function, how I solve tasks – I look at the subject for a long time and gradually the solution grows forth through all sorts of covers. That’s how I write code now. The heck with the code! …

This picture definitely had a potential to materialize the famous Sir Penrose Three piece Coordinate Motion Puzzle.

Here I finally said it! The word “Puzzle”.

I dislike it more and more as time passes by. I used to use it a lot. I even named my site PUZZLEMAN.COM, and I still use it. But the word itself is so wrong. Almost anything can be named a puzzle. A riddle, a crossword, a jig-saw, any sort of a dodgy, stalky task can be called a puzzle. The final stage of this madness happened when an Internet search on 3D puzzles pulled a list of three dimensional jig-saws made out of Styrofoam. 

That’s not what I do!
I materialize Geometry at its pure form. I don’t try to tangle something crafty and watch people suffer untangling it. What I do is not really inventing, it’s more a discovery process, so playing with my objects one can really rediscover the inner structure of our Universe.  I really need another word!


But back to Sir Penrose.  He holds religious views very similar to mine with one exception – I am not an atheist (Wikipedia:Penrose does not hold to any religious doctrine, and refers to himself as an atheist. In the film A Brief History of Time, he said, “I think I would say that the universe has a purpose, it’s not somehow just there by chance … some people, I think, take the view that the universe is just there and it runs along–it’s a bit like it just sort of computes, and we happen somehow by accident to find ourselves in this thing. But I don’t think that’s a very fruitful or helpful way of looking at the universe, I think that there is something much deeper about it.)

His ingenious 3-piece coordinate motion thingy is astonishing.  Its three parts are identical and can be put together by simultaneous movement of all three and by no other way.  The only disadvantage of it is its appearance – flat 2D.


Then looking at the book cover I suddenly saw how the stellar dodecahedron can become a 3D Coordinate Motion Machine materializing the Sir Penrose’s approach.


At home I started the work immediately. I chose red paper for the task. Calculations were somewhat challenging, not a single right angle, but I felt in the zone and finished the model in one day. 


This crooked paper model is almost thirty years old. I kept it throughout years and places. 

Many years later I met Wayne Daniel, one of the greatest wood-makers of our time. He took a challenge of producing an edition of Dodecons (as we called it) out of Mahogany. I didn’t believe it was possible until I actually held the proof – a light blue styrofoam model.

This was a test model to make sure they got all the jigs right. They did. It was working!

Several months later I received a hundred of heavy wooden Dodecons, working as Sir Penrose puzzle.

 See its parts

The Dodecon was sliding smoothly as a Swiss watch, much better than the Diagonal Star.

The Dodecon was performing the Sir Penrose Coordinate Motion move as a 3D object – Watch the MOVIE.


It happened in America in 1998, many years after I put together it’s original prototype – The Star of Red Pyramids.


Then, back in Russia, I held its pieces in my hands ready to slide them together, when the EPICAC story came to my mind, and I really asked myself – what if this is it?

If I assemble them now – what can be done better?

What can be more excellent and pure than this? 

The world can easily end now.

To be continued on The East Coast


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