Lost in Translation (Fischer-Koch I)

In 1990, Werner Fischer and Elke Koch classified embedded triply periodic minimal surfaces that can be obtained by extending Plateau solutions for Euclidean polygons.

Above to the left you see a minimal 8-gon, extended to a twisted minimal annulus to the right. The horizontal lines make a 60 degree angle, and if the height of the shorter vertical segments is one half of the gap size between two of these segments, further rotations will deliver an embedded surface.

It is hard to believe that something like this is possible, isn’t it?

Hermann Karcher describes a variation of this construction that creates 6-ended singly periodic minimal surfaces. He also mentions that these surfaces can be twisted, i.e. deformed into screw-motion invariant minimal surfaces with helicoidal ends.

Above you can see what happens when the surface is twisted clockwise. On the right, we approach a parking garage structure with five helicoidal columns, four of them with positive spin and axes at the corners of a square, and one with negative spin at the center of the square. Not getting lost in a parking garage like this would be very difficult…

As these surfaces are chiral, twisting them counterclockwise leads to essentially different surfaces. In this case, the limit parking garage structure consists of three helicoidal columns with axes placed on a straight line. So during this entire deformation, two of the helicoids have magically cancelled.

Next week we will see a very recent and surprising variation of this construction.