Alternation (geometry)

Alternation of a truncated cuboctahedron creates a nonuniform snub cube.

In geometry, an alternation or partial truncation, is an operation on a polygon, polyhedron, tiling, or higher dimensional polytope that removes alternate vertices.[1]

Coxeter labels an alternation by a prefixed h, standing for hemi or half. Because alternation reduces all polygon faces to half as many sides, it can only be applied to polytopes with all even-sided faces. An alternated square face becomes a digon, and being degenerate, is usually reduced to a single edge.

More generally any vertex-uniform polyhedron or tiling with a vertex configuration consisting of all even-numbered elements can be alternated. For example, the alternation of a vertex figure with 2a.2b.2c is a.3.b.3.c.3 where the three is the number of elements in this vertex figure. A special case is square faces whose order divides in half into degenerate digons. So for example, the cube 4.4.4 is alternated as 2.3.2.3.2.3 which is reduced to 3.3.3, being the tetrahedron, and all the 6 edges of the tetrahedra can also be seen as the degenerate faces of the original cube.

A snub (in Coxeter's terminology) can be seen as an alternation of a truncated regular or truncated quasiregular polyhedron. In general a polyhedron can be snubbed if its truncation has only even-sided faces. All truncated rectified polyhedra can be snubbed, not just from regular polyhedra.

This alternation operation applies to higher-dimensional polytopes and honeycombs as well, but in general most of the results of this operation will not be uniform. The voids created by the deleted vertices will not in general create uniform facets, and there are typically not enough degrees of freedom to allow an appropriate rescaling of the new edges. Exceptions do exist, however, such as the derivation of the snub 24-cell from the truncated 24-cell.

A similar operation can truncate alternate vertices, rather than just removing them. Below is a set of polyhedra that can be generated from the Catalan solids. These have two types of vertices which can be alternately truncated. Truncating the "higher order" vertices and both vertex types produce these forms: