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For other uses, see Tesseract (disambiguation).
Schlegel wireframe 8-cell.png
Type Convex regular 4-polytope
Schläfli symbol {4,3,3}
t0,3{4,3,2} or {4,3}×{ }
t0,2{4,2,4} or {4}×{4}
t0,2,3{4,2,2} or {4}×{ }×{ }
t0,1,2,3{2,2,2} or { }×{ }×{ }×{ }
Coxeter diagram CDel node 1.pngCDel 4.pngCDel node.pngCDel 3.pngCDel node.pngCDel 3.pngCDel node.png
CDel node 1.pngCDel 4.pngCDel node.pngCDel 3.pngCDel node.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.png
CDel node 1.pngCDel 4.pngCDel node.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.pngCDel 4.pngCDel node.png
CDel node 1.pngCDel 4.pngCDel node.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.png
CDel node 1.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.pngCDel 2.pngCDel node 1.png
Cells 8 (4.4.4) Hexahedron.png
Faces 24 {4}
Edges 32
Vertices 16
Vertex figure 8-cell verf.png
Petrie polygon octagon
Coxeter group B4, [3,3,4]
Dual 16-cell
Properties convex, isogonal, isotoxal, isohedral
Uniform index 10
The Dali cross, a net of a tesseract

In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of six square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of eight cubical cells. The tesseract is one of the six convex regular 4-polytopes.

The tesseract is also called an 8-cell, C8, (regular) octachoron, octahedroid,[1] cubic prism, and tetracube (although this last term can also mean a polycube made of four cubes). It is the four-dimensional hypercube, or 4-cube as a part of the dimensional family of hypercubes or "measure polytopes".[2]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word tesseract was coined and first used in 1888 by Charles Howard Hinton in his book A New Era of Thought, from the Greek τέσσερεις ακτίνες (téssereis aktines, "four rays"), referring to the four lines from each vertex to other vertices.[3] In this publication, as well as some of Hinton's later work, the word was occasionally spelled "tessaract".


The tesseract can be constructed in a number of ways. As a regular polytope with three cubes folded together around every edge, it has Schläfli symbol {4,3,3} with hyperoctahedral symmetry of order 384. Constructed as a 4D hyperprism made of two parallel cubes, it can be named as a composite Schläfli symbol {4,3} × { }, with symmetry order 96. As a 4-4 duoprism, a Cartesian product of two squares, it can be named by a composite Schläfli symbol {4}×{4}, with symmetry order 64. As an orthotope it can be represented by composite Schläfli symbol { } × { } × { } × { } or { }4, with symmetry order 16.

Since each vertex of a tesseract is adjacent to four edges, the vertex figure of the tesseract is a regular tetrahedron. The dual polytope of the tesseract is called the hexadecachoron, or 16-cell, with Schläfli symbol {3,3,4}.

The standard tesseract in Euclidean 4-space is given as the convex hull of the points (±1, ±1, ±1, ±1). That is, it consists of the points:

A tesseract is bounded by eight hyperplanes (xi = ±1). Each pair of non-parallel hyperplanes intersects to form 24 square faces in a tesseract. Three cubes and three squares intersect at each edge. There are four cubes, six squares, and four edges meeting at every vertex. All in all, it consists of 8 cubes, 24 squares, 32 edges, and 16 vertices.

Projections to 2 dimensions[edit]

The construction of a hypercube can be imagined the following way:

  • 1-dimensional: Two points A and B can be connected to a line, giving a new line segment AB.
  • 2-dimensional: Two parallel line segments AB and CD can be connected to become a square, with the corners marked as ABCD.
  • 3-dimensional: Two parallel squares ABCD and EFGH can be connected to become a cube, with the corners marked as ABCDEFGH.
  • 4-dimensional: Two parallel cubes ABCDEFGH and IJKLMNOP can be connected to become a hypercube, with the corners marked as ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP.
A 3D projection of an 8-cell performing a simple rotation about a plane which bisects the figure from front-left to back-right and top to bottom
A diagram showing how to create a tesseract from a point
An animation of the shifting in dimensions as shown above

It is possible to project tesseracts into three- or two-dimensional spaces, as projecting a cube is possible on a two-dimensional space.

Projections on the 2D-plane become more instructive by rearranging the positions of the projected vertices. In this fashion, one can obtain pictures that no longer reflect the spatial relationships within the tesseract, but which illustrate the connection structure of the vertices, such as in the following examples:

A tesseract is in principle obtained by combining two cubes. The scheme is similar to the construction of a cube from two squares: juxtapose two copies of the lower-dimensional cube and connect the corresponding vertices. Each edge of a tesseract is of the same length. This view is of interest when using tesseracts as the basis for a network topology to link multiple processors in parallel computing: the distance between two nodes is at most 4 and there are many different paths to allow weight balancing.

Parallel projections to 3 dimensions[edit]

The rhombic dodecahedron forms the convex hull of the tesseract's vertex-first parallel-projection. The number of vertices in the layers of this projection is 1 4 6 4 1—the fourth row in Pascal's triangle.
Parallel projection envelopes of the tesseract (each cell is drawn with different color faces, inverted cells are undrawn)

The cell-first parallel projection of the tesseract into 3-dimensional space has a cubical envelope. The nearest and farthest cells are projected onto the cube, and the remaining 6 cells are projected onto the 6 square faces of the cube.

The face-first parallel projection of the tesseract into 3-dimensional space has a cuboidal envelope. Two pairs of cells project to the upper and lower halves of this envelope, and the 4 remaining cells project to the side faces.

The edge-first parallel projection of the tesseract into 3-dimensional space has an envelope in the shape of a hexagonal prism. Six cells project onto rhombic prisms, which are laid out in the hexagonal prism in a way analogous to how the faces of the 3D cube project onto 6 rhombs in a hexagonal envelope under vertex-first projection. The two remaining cells project onto the prism bases.

The vertex-first parallel projection of the tesseract into 3-dimensional space has a rhombic dodecahedral envelope. There are exactly two ways of decomposing a rhombic dodecahedron into 4 congruent parallelepipeds, giving a total of 8 possible parallelepipeds. The images of the tesseract's cells under this projection are precisely these 8 parallelepipeds. This projection is also the one with maximal volume.

Image gallery[edit]

3-D net of a tesseract
The tesseract can be unfolded into eight cubes into 3D space, just as the cube can be unfolded into six squares into 2D space. An unfolding of a polytope is called a net. There are 261 distinct nets of the tesseract.[4] The unfoldings of the tesseract can be counted by mapping the nets to paired trees (a tree together with a perfect matching in its complement).
3D stereographic projection tesseract.PNG
Stereoscopic 3D projection of a tesseract (parallel view)

3D Crossed Eyes (no glasses needed) Disarmed Hypercube

Alternative projections[edit]

A 3D projection of a tesseract performing a double rotation about two orthogonal planes
Perspective with hidden volume elimination. The red corner is the nearest in 4D and has 4 cubical cells meeting around it.
Tesseract tetrahedron shadow matrices.svg

The tetrahedron forms the convex hull of the tesseract's vertex-centered central projection. Four of 8 cubic cells are shown. The 16th vertex is projected to infinity and the four edges to it are not shown.

Stereographic polytope 8cell.png
Stereographic projection

(Edges are projected onto the 3-sphere)

2D orthographic projections[edit]

orthographic projections
Coxeter plane B4 B3 / D4 / A2 B2 / D3
Graph 4-cube t0.svg 4-cube t0 B3.svg 4-cube t0 B2.svg
Dihedral symmetry [8] [6] [4]
Coxeter plane Other F4 A3
Graph 4-cube column graph.svg 4-cube t0 F4.svg 4-cube t0 A3.svg
Dihedral symmetry [2] [12/3] [4]

Related complex polygon[edit]

Orthogonal Perspective
4-generalized-2-cube.svg Complex polygon 4-4-2-stereographic3.png
4{4}2, with 16 vertices and 8 4-edges, with the 8 4-edges shown here as 4 red and 4 blue squares.

The regular complex polytope 4{4}2, CDel 4node 1.pngCDel 4.pngCDel node.png, in has a real representation as a tesseract or 4-4 duoprism in 4-dimensional space. 4{4}2 has 16 vertices, and 8 4-edges. Its symmetry is 4[4]2, order 32. It also has a lower symmetry construction, CDel 4node 1.pngCDel 2.pngCDel 4node 1.png, or 4{}×4{}, with symmetry 4[2]4, order 16. This is the symmetry if the red and blue 4-edges are considered distinct.[5]


The tesseract, along with all hypercubes, tessellates Euclidean space. The self-dual tesseractic honeycomb consisting of 4 tesseracts around each face has Schläfli symbol {4,3,3,4}. Hence, the tesseract has a dihedral angle of 90°.[6]

Related polytopes and honeycombs[edit]

As a uniform duoprism, the tesseract exists in a sequence of uniform duoprisms: {p}×{4}.

The regular tesseract, along with the 16-cell, exists in a set of 15 uniform 4-polytopes with the same symmetry. The tesseract {4,3,3} exists in a sequence of regular 4-polytopes and honeycombs, {p,3,3} with tetrahedral vertex figures, {3,3}. The tesseract is also in a sequence of regular 4-polytope and honeycombs, {4,3,p} with cubic cells.

In popular culture[edit]

Since their discovery, four-dimensional hypercubes have been a popular theme in art, architecture, and fiction. Notable examples include:


  1. ^ Matila Ghyka, The geometry of Art and Life (1977), p.68
  2. ^ E. L. Elte, The Semiregular Polytopes of the Hyperspaces, (1912)
  3. ^ http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/199669?redirectedFrom=tesseract#eid
  4. ^ "Unfolding an 8-cell". 
  5. ^ Coxeter, H. S. M., Regular Complex Polytopes, second edition, Cambridge University Press, (1991).
  6. ^ Coxeter, Regular polygons, p.293
  7. ^ Kemp, Martin (1 January 1998), "Dali's dimensions", Nature, 391 (27), doi:10.1038/34063 
  8. ^ Du Sautoy, Marcus. "A 4 Dimensional Cube in Paris". The Number Mysteries. Archived from the original on 2014-04-28. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Fowler, David (2010), "Mathematics in Science Fiction: Mathematics as Science Fiction", World Literature Today, 84 (3): 48–52, JSTOR 27871086, Robert Heinlein's "And He Built a Crooked House," published in 1940, and Martin Gardner's "The No-Sided Professor," published in 1946, are among the first in science fiction to introduce readers to the Moebius band, the Klein bottle, and the hypercube (tesseract). .


  • H.S.M. Coxeter:
    • Coxeter, Regular Polytopes, (3rd edition, 1973), Dover edition, ISBN 0-486-61480-8, p. 296, Table I (iii): Regular Polytopes, three regular polytopes in n-dimensions (n≥5)
    • H.S.M. Coxeter, Regular Polytopes, 3rd Edition, Dover New York, 1973, p. 296, Table I (iii): Regular Polytopes, three regular polytopes in n-dimensions (n≥5)
    • Kaleidoscopes: Selected Writings of H.S.M. Coxeter, edited by F. Arthur Sherk, Peter McMullen, Anthony C. Thompson, Asia Ivic Weiss, Wiley-Interscience Publication, 1995, ISBN 978-0-471-01003-6 [1]
      • (Paper 22) H.S.M. Coxeter, Regular and Semi Regular Polytopes I, [Math. Zeit. 46 (1940) 380-407, MR 2,10]
      • (Paper 23) H.S.M. Coxeter, Regular and Semi-Regular Polytopes II, [Math. Zeit. 188 (1985) 559-591]
      • (Paper 24) H.S.M. Coxeter, Regular and Semi-Regular Polytopes III, [Math. Zeit. 200 (1988) 3-45]
  • John H. Conway, Heidi Burgiel, Chaim Goodman-Strass, The Symmetries of Things 2008, ISBN 978-1-56881-220-5 (Chapter 26. pp. 409: Hemicubes: 1n1)
  • T. Gosset (1900) On the Regular and Semi-Regular Figures in Space of n Dimensions, Messenger of Mathematics, Macmillan.
  • T. Proctor Hall (1893) "The projection of fourfold figures on a three-flat", American Journal of Mathematics 15:179–89.
  • Norman Johnson Uniform Polytopes, Manuscript (1991)
    • N.W. Johnson: The Theory of Uniform Polytopes and Honeycombs, Ph.D. (1966)
  • Victor Schlegel (1886) Ueber Projectionsmodelle der regelmässigen vier-dimensionalen Körper, Waren.

External links[edit]

Fundamental convex regular and uniform polytopes in dimensions 2–10
Family An Bn I2(p) / Dn E6 / E7 / E8 / E9 / E10 / F4 / G2 Hn
Regular polygon Triangle Square p-gon Hexagon Pentagon
Uniform polyhedron Tetrahedron OctahedronCube Demicube DodecahedronIcosahedron
Uniform 4-polytope 5-cell 16-cellTesseract Demitesseract 24-cell 120-cell600-cell
Uniform 5-polytope 5-simplex 5-orthoplex5-cube 5-demicube
Uniform 6-polytope 6-simplex 6-orthoplex6-cube 6-demicube 122221
Uniform 7-polytope 7-simplex 7-orthoplex7-cube 7-demicube 132231321
Uniform 8-polytope 8-simplex 8-orthoplex8-cube 8-demicube 142241421
Uniform 9-polytope 9-simplex 9-orthoplex9-cube 9-demicube
Uniform 10-polytope 10-simplex 10-orthoplex10-cube 10-demicube
Uniform n-polytope n-simplex n-orthoplexn-cube n-demicube 1k22k1k21 n-pentagonal polytope
Topics: Polytope familiesRegular polytopeList of regular polytopes and compounds