Quincunx

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For Sir Francis Galton's machine for demonstrating the normal distribution named "quincunx", see bean machine.
For the Roman coin denomination, see quincunx (coin).


A quincunx is the arrangement of five units in the pattern corresponding to the five-spot on dice, playing cards, or dominoes. A quincunx looks like this:

Quincunx

The quincunx pattern originates from Pythagorean mathematical mysticism. This pattern lies at the heart of the Pythagorean tetraktys, a pyramid of ten dots. To the Pythagoreans the number five held particular significance and the quincunx pattern represented this. Sir Thomas Browne moulds his mystical discourse The Garden of Cyrus (1658) on the quincunx pattern.

The power of the Pythagorean mysteries is based upon a mystical understanding of the mathematical order of the Universe which could be summed up in visual representation of such numbers as the Tetraktys (10) and the Quincunx (5).
- Robert Graves, The White Goddess
  • The quincunx is named after the Roman coin of the same name, which was marked with a quincunx of dots.
  • A quincunx was the standard tactical formation for elements of a Roman legion.
  • A quincunx is a standard pattern for planting an orchard, especially in France.
  • Quincunxes are used in modern computer graphics as a sampling pattern for astochastic anti-aliasing.
  • In astrology (and less commonly in astronomy), a quincunx is an angle of five-twelfths of a circle, or 150°, between two objects (the Sun, Moon or planets). In astrology this astrological aspect (the term by which specific angles between objects is known) is considered somewhat unfavorable, but less so than the aspects of opposition (180° angle) or square (90° angle).

Books

The Quincunx (ISBN 0345371135) is also a lengthy and elaborate novel by Charles Palliser set in 19th Century England and published in 1989.

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