2000 AMC 12 Problems/Problem 25
Eight congruent equilateral triangles, each of a different color, are used to construct a regular octahedron. How many distinguishable ways are there to construct the octahedron? (Two colored octahedrons are distinguishable if neither can be rotated to look just like the other.)
Since the octahedron is indistinguishable by rotations, without loss of generality fix a face to be red.
There are ways to arrange the remaining seven colors, but there still are three possible rotations about the fixed face, so the answer is .
We consider the dual of the octahedron, the cube; a cube can be inscribed in an octahedron with each of its vertices at a face of the octahedron. So the problem is equivalent to finding the number of ways to color the vertices of a cube.
Select any vertex and call it ; there are color choices for this vertex, but this vertex can be rotated to any of locations. After fixing , we pick another vertex adjacent to . There are seven color choices for , but there are only three locations to which can be rotated to (since there are three edges from ). The remaining six vertices can be colored in any way and their locations are now fixed. Thus the total number of ways is .
There are 8! ways to place eight colors on a fixed octahedron. An octahedron has six vertices, of which one can face the top, and for any vertex that faces the top, there are four different triangles around that vertex that can be facing you. Thus there are 6*4 = 24 ways to orient an octahedron, and
If we look at the base of an octahedron lying flat on a table, we can see there are 8 orbits since there are 8 colors to choose from as the base of the octahedron. We can also see that there are 3 stabilizers that keep the base the same color with the 0 rotation, 120 rotation, and 240 rotation about the base. Using the orbit-stabilizer theorem, we then know that the number of rotational symmetries of an octahedron is . There are 8! ways to color the octahedron, and since rotations are indistinguishable, the answer comes out to be
Solution 5 (Graph Theory)
This problem can be approached by Graph Theory. Note that each face of the octahedron is connected to 3 other faces. We use the above graph to represent the problem. Each vertex represents a face of the octahedron, each edge represent the octahedron's edge.
Now the problem becomes how many distinguishable ways to color the vertices such that two colored graphs are distinguishable if neither can be rotated and reflected to become the other.
Notice that once the outer 4 vertices are colored, no matter how the inner 4 vertices are colored, the resulting graphs are distinguishable graphs.
There are colors and outer vertices, therefore there are ways to color outer 4 vertices. Combination is used because the coloring has to be distinguishable when rotated and reflected. There are colors left, therefore there are ways to color inner 4 vertices. Permutation is used because the coloring of the inner vertices have no restrictions. In total that is
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