Flexible polyhedron

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In geometry, a flexible polyhedron is a polyhedral surface that allows continuous non-rigid deformations such that all faces remain rigid. The Cauchy rigidity theorem shows that in dimension 3 such a polyhedron cannot be convex (this is also true in higher dimensions).

The first examples of flexible polyhedra, now called Bricard's octahedra, were discovered by Raoul Bricard (1897). They are self-intersecting surfaces isometric to an octahedron. The first example of a non-self-intersecting surface in R3, the Connelly sphere, was discovered by Robert Connelly (1977).

Bellows conjecture[edit]

In the late 1970s Connelly and D. Sullivan formulated the bellows conjecture stating that the volume of a flexible polyhedron is invariant under flexing. This conjecture was proved for polyhedra homeomorphic to a sphere by I. Kh. Sabitov (1995) using elimination theory, and then proved for general orientable 2-dimensional polyhedral surfaces by Robert Connelly, I. Sabitov, and Anke Walz (1997).

Scissor congruence[edit]

Connelly conjectured that the Dehn invariant of a flexible polyhedron is invariant under flexing. This is known as the strong bellows conjecture. Preservation of the Dehn invariant is known to be equivalent to scissors congruence of the enclosed region under flexing. The special case of mean curvature has been proved by Ralph Alexander.


Flexible 4-polytopes in 4-dimensional Euclidean space and 3-dimensional hyperbolic space were studied by Hellmuth Stachel. In November 2009 it was not known whether flexible polytopes exist in Euclidean space of dimension n\geq 5.

See also[edit]


Popular level[edit]

  • D. Fuchs, S. Tabachnikov, Mathematical Omnibus: Thirty Lectures on Classic Mathematics