Compass and Straightedge Constructions

Compass And Straightedge Constructions

Compass-and-straightedge or ruler-and-compass construction is the construction of lengths, angles, and other geometric figures using only an idealized ruler and compass.

The idealized ruler, known as a straightedge, is assumed to be infinite in length, and has no markings on it and only one edge. The compass is assumed to collapse when lifted from the page, so may not be directly used to transfer distances. (This is an unimportant restriction, as this may be achieved via the compass equivalence theorem.) More formally, the only permissible constructions are those granted by Euclid's first three postulates.

Every point constructible using straightedge and compass may be constructed using compass alone. A number of ancient problems in plane geometry impose this restriction.

The most famous straightedge-and-compass problems have been proven impossible in several cases by Pierre Wantzel, using the mathematical theory of fields. In spite of existing proofs of impossibility, some persist in trying to solve these problems. Many of these problems are easily solvable provided that other geometric transformations are allowed: for example, doubling the cube is possible using geometric constructions, but not possible using straightedge and compass alone.

Mathematician Underwood Dudley has made a sideline of collecting false ruler-and-compass proofs, as well as other work by mathematical cranks, and has collected them into several books.

Read more about Compass And Straightedge Constructions:  Compass and Straightedge Tools, The Basic Constructions, Constructible Angles, Compass and Straightedge Constructions As Complex Arithmetic, Impossible Constructions, Constructing Regular Polygons, Constructing With Only Ruler or Only Compass, Computation of Binary Digits

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Famous quotes containing the word compass:

    The statue is then beautiful when it begins to be incomprehensible, when it is passing out of criticism, and can no longer be defined by compass and measuring-wand, but demands an active imagination to go with it, and to say what it is in the act of doing.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)