Thursday, January 06, 2011

Fascinating hexagons

click photo to enlarge
Ask a person in the street to name something that involves regular hexagons and they'll almost certainly come up with either the honeycomb or the snowflake. The reason why bees make their cells using this shape is thought to be the fact that it uses the least material for a given volume. It's the hexagon's ability to tessellate perfectly that is the key to our fascination with the shape. Squares and triangles have this property too (as do many other less common shapes), but they don't do it with the same interesting elegance.

Honeycombs and snowflakes aren't the only naturally occuring hexagons. Basalt columns exhibit this quality, as does the crystal beryl, the turtle's carapace and even a north polar cloud system on Saturn. Man has made use of the tessellation properties of the hexagon in things as diverse as floor tiles, patchwork quilts, glass window blocks, paving and house plans. It is also the shape used for the "Seabee" concrete blocks used to make the honeycomb sea-walls found on low-lying coasts subject to erosion. Placed as a revetment over gravel or stone they work by the holes absorbing the force of the waves. They are one of the more expensive methods of protecting a coast, but have been found effective when used judiciously. The examples in today's photograph are part of a length at Skegness, Lincolnshire. I chose a section where steps cut through the Seabees and I composed this semi-abstract image.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm
F No: 6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On