Tetrahedron - Encyclopedia

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TETRAHEDRON (Gr. TErpa-, four, Spa, face or base), in geometry, a solid bounded by four triangular faces. It consequently has four vertices and six edges. If the faces be all equal equilateral triangles the solid is termed the "regular" tetrahedron. This is one of the Platonic solids, and is treated in the article Polyhedron, as is also the derived Archimedean solid named the "truncated tetrahedron"; in addition, the regular tetrahedron has important crystallographic relations, being the hemihedral form of the regular octahedron and consequently a form of the cubic system. The bisphenoids (the hemihedral forms of the tetragonal and rhombic bipyramids)., and the trigonal pyramid of the hexagonal system, are examples of non-regular tetrahedra (see Crystallography). "Tetrahedral co-ordinates" are a system of quadriplanar co-ordinates, the fundamental planes being the faces of a tetrahedron, and the co-ordinates the perpendicular distances of the point from the faces, a positive sign being given if the point be between the face and the opposite vertex, and a negative sign if not. If (u, v, w, t) be the co-ordinates of any point, then the relation u+v-Fw-fit=R, where R is a constant, invariably holds. This system is of much service in following out mathematical, physical and chemical problems in which it is necessary to represent four variables.

Related to the tetrahedron are two spheres which have received much attention. The "twelve-point sphere," discovered by P. M. E. Prouhet (1817-1867) in 1863, is somewhat analogous to the nine-point circle of a triangle. If the perpendiculars from the vertices to the opposite faces of a tetrahedron be concurrent, then a sphere passes through the four feet of the perpendiculars, and consequently through the centre of gravity of each of the four faces, and through the mid-points of the segments of the perpendiculars between the vertices and their common point of intersection. This theorem has been generalized for any tetrahedron; a sphere can be drawn through the four feet of the perpendiculars, and consequently through the mid-points of the lines from the vertices to the centre of the hyperboloid having these perpendiculars as generators, and through the orthogonal projections of these points on the opposite faces.

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