David Smith/Joseph Samuel Myers/Craig S. Kaplan/Chaim Goodman-Strauss
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Unless you’re renovating a bathroom, you may not think a lot about tiles. But mathematicians do. One of their long-standing quests has been to design a tile shape that can cover a plane of infinite size without repeating the pattern with which the tiles fit together. Formally an aperiodic monotile, it’s also called an einstein—from the German for “one” and “stone.” Last November, David Smith, a retired printing technician in Yorkshire, England, hit einsteinian pay dirt by creating this 13-sided shape. Did the world need an aperiodic monotile? No. Are we a little smarter now that one exists? Absolutely.

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