desargues theorem for poets

the MEdZ logo indicates where
the ten lines of the desargues diagram
fall. one has ten such lines.
also ten points. each line
can be considered as a set
of three points; similarly each
single *point* belongs to three *lines*.
in fact, we have a “duality” here…
theorems about points-and-lines
remain true when the words
“point” and “line” are interchanged.

for example, in a self-dual space
having the property… which this one
does *not*… that “any two points
determine a unique line”, one would
also have “any two lines determine
a unique point” (and one makes
adjustments to plain-english like
“any two points *lie on* a line”
“any two lines *meet at* a point”
or what have you).

it turns out in desargues-space
(let’s say, in D) each line has
three parallel lines, all meeting
at a point. the point is said to be
the pole of the line and
the line is said to be the polar
of the point. a choice of pole-and-polar
for the diagram is a *polarity*.

ten polarities are displayed in color here.
each white dot represents the pole
for its diagram; the polar is colored
with the three “secondary” colors
(green, purple, and orange).
the three lines through the pole
have matching “primary” colors:
a red line, a blue line, and a yellow line
(if you will).

it turns out that the primary-color points
can be arranged… in exactly one way…
into *two* red-yellow-blue “triangles”
(whose “edges” are along lines of D).

now we come to the payoff.
the two triangles are said to be
“perspective from the pole”
(“p”, say; call the polar line “l”
while we’re at it if you please):
one imagines shining a light
held at p through the vertices
of one triangle to produce the
other triangle… like a slideshow.

and what happens is that now
*either* red-blue line will “hit”
the purple point… and *either*
red-yellow line will hit the orange
point… and *either* blue-yellow
line will hit the green point:
the colors “mix like pigments”.
recall that the secondaries…
the “mixed” colors… all fall on
the polar of p. recall that this
is a *line* of D.

when, as in this case, the three
points-of-intersection for the three
of a pair of triangles happen to
lie on a single line, the triangles
are said to be “perspective from
the line”. in our RBY metaphor,
perspectivity from a line means
we color the vertices of the triangles
and form the secondary colors
by intersecting the lines.
perspectivity from a line means
that the secondaries all line up.

if P is a “space” (a set of points
together with certain subsets
called lines) satisfying certain
axioms (those of a projective
), then we have
desargues’s theorem
any two triangles perspective
from a point are perspective
from a line; any two triangles
perspective from a line are
perspective from a point.

(d’s theorem is *almost* true in
the ordinary euclidean plane…
but alas special cases must be
written in to account for
parallel lines. parallels are
banned from projective spaces
which makes ’em easier to work with
algebraically but harder to visualize.
luckily “ordinary” planes can be
made to “sit inside” projective planes
so we can recover all of euclidean
geometry in a more-convenient-for-
-abstract-symbol-manipulation form.

i still haven’t “solved”
ten-point reverse TTT,
by the way. but it’s very likely
only a matter of time.
somebody skilled in computer coding
could probably knock it out in a few hours.


  1. One of these days, I’ll have to put all of this into InDesign for you–after we sit for about three days and you explain it all to me in detail.

  2. sounds great. of course, i’m still
    working *out* the details.
    this stuff is tantalizingly always
    just beyond my ability to just look
    and see everything there *is* to see.
    “elementary” stuff gets complicated
    in a heck of a hurry. color is a great
    gimmick: this primary-versus-secondary
    trick has helped me considerably
    in holding the relevant info in my head
    all at once.

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