The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







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Type Platonic
Face polygon triangle
Faces 4
Edges 6
Vertices 4
Faces per vertex 3
Vertices per face 3
Symmetry group tetrahedral (Td)
Dual polyhedron tetrahedron (self-dual)
Dihedral Angle 70 32'
Properties regular, convex

A tetrahedron (plural: tetrahedra) is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, three of which meet at each vertex. A regular tetrahedron is one in which the four triangles are regular, or "equilateral," and is one of the Platonic solids.

image:tetrahedron flat.png

The area A and the volume V of a regular tetrahedron of edge length a are:


A tetrahedron is a 3-simplex.

Tetrahedra are a special type of triangular pyramid and are self-dual. Canonical coordinates of the tetrahedron are (1, 1, 1), (−1, −1, 1), (−1, 1, −1) and (1, −1, −1). A regular tetrahedron can be embedded inside a cube in two ways such that each vertex is a vertex of the cube, and each edge is a diagonal of one of the cube's faces. The volume of this tetrahedron is 1/3 the volume of the cube. Taking both tetrahedra within a single cube gives a regular polyhedral compound called the stella octangula, whose interior is an octahedron. Inscribing tetrahedra inside the regular compound of five cubes gives two more regular compounds, containing five and ten tetrahedra.

Regular tetrahedra can't tile space by themselves, although it seems likely enough that Aristotle reported it was possible. In fact, octahedra are necessary to fill some of the gaps. This is one of the five Andreini tessellations, and is a limiting case of another, a tiling involving tetrahedra and truncated tetrahedra.

The volume of an irregular tetrahedron, given its vertices a, b, c and d, is (1/6)·|det(ab, bc, cd)|, or any other combination of pairs of verticies that form a simply connected graph. (This works for regular tetrahedrons too.)

Especially in roleplaying, this solid is known as a d4, one of the more common Polyhedral dice.

Like all platonic solids, archimedean solids and indeed all convex polyhedra, a tetrahedron can be folded from a single sheet of paper.

External links

  • The Uniform Polyhedra
  • Virtual Reality Polyhedra The Encyclopedia of Polyhedra
  • Paper Models of Polyhedra Many links

Last updated: 02-08-2005 11:19:50
Last updated: 05-02-2005 11:57:14