(click through the images to view in high-res)

Penrose tilings are an example of the non-periodic tilings discussed in the last post. Recall that these are tilings that cover the entire infinite plane leaving neither gaps nor overlaps. Whats nice about these tilings is that the set of tiles used to construct the Penrose tilings only consists of two different basic shapes consisting of quadrilaterals.

Whats even more remarkable about Penrose tilings is that using just these two shapes it is possible to construct infinitely many different tilings that cover the infinite plane. This infinity is infinitely bigger in size than the countable infinity of the whole numbers ( 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on), but rather equivalent to the uncountable infinity associated to the real numbers (which includes all whole numbers, fractions, and decimals with infinitely many digits).

Despite the existence of these infinitely many different Penrose tilings, there is one peculiar property they all exhibit. Consider any finite region, or patch, of one particular Penrose tiling. Then it is possible to find an exact copy of this patch in *any other* different Penrose tiling! Moreover, this patch occurs infinitely often in different spots in any given tiling! Note that this is true of any patch of any size no matter how big as long as its finite. This implies that if you were only able to examine a finite part of any Penrose tiling, you could never really distinguish that entire tiling from any other tiling. Thus, different Penrose tilings are only perfectly distinguishable in the infinite limit of the entire plane.

The images shown above display finite regions of Penrose tilings. They are constructed using an elegant "cut-and-project" method (also used here), which involves projecting the points of the integer lattice in 5-dimensional Euclidean space, onto a certain 2-dimensional plane. Connecting adjacent projected points in this plane by lines then yields a Penrose tiling.

Further reading:

Image Source: Wikipedia