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DISSECTING A MITRE.
(Various Dissection Puzzles
The figure that is perplexing the carpenter in the illustration
represents a mitre. It will be seen that its proportions are those of a
square with one quarter removed. The puzzle is to cut it into five
pieces that will fit together and form a perfect square. I show an
attempt, published in America, to perform the feat in four pieces, based
on what is known as the "step principle," but it is a fallacy.
We are told first to cut oft the pieces 1 and 2 and pack them into the
triangular space marked off by the dotted line, and so form a rectangle.
So far, so good. Now, we are directed to apply the old step principle,
as shown, and, by moving down the piece 4 one step, form the required
square. But, unfortunately, it does _not_ produce a square: only an
oblong. Call the three long sides of the mitre 84 in. each. Then, before
cutting the steps, our rectangle in three pieces will be 84 x 63. The
steps must be 101/2 in. in height and 12 in. in breadth. Therefore, by
moving down a step we reduce by 12 in. the side 84 in. and increase by
101/2 in. the side 63 in. Hence our final rectangle must be 72 in. x 731/2
in., which certainly is not a square! The fact is, the step principle
can only be applied to rectangles with sides of particular relative
lengths. For example, if the shorter side in this case were 61+5/7
(instead of 63), then the step method would apply. For the steps would
then be 10+2/7 in. in height and 12 in. in breadth. Note that 61+5/7 x
84 = the square of 72. At present no solution has been found in four
pieces, and I do not believe one possible.