Undecidable Translational Tilings with Only Two Tiles, or One Nonabelian Tile

Rachel Greenfeld, Terence Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We construct an example of a group G= Z2× G for a finite abelian group G, a subset E of G, and two finite subsets F1, F2 of G, such that it is undecidable in ZFC whether Z2× E can be tiled by translations of F1, F2. In particular, this implies that this tiling problem is aperiodic, in the sense that (in the standard universe of ZFC) there exist translational tilings of E by the tiles F1, F2, but no periodic tilings. Previously, such aperiodic or undecidable translational tilings were only constructed for sets of eleven or more tiles (mostly in Z2). A similar construction also applies for G= Zd for sufficiently large d. If one allows the group G to be non-abelian, a variant of the construction produces an undecidable translational tiling with only one tile F. The argument proceeds by first observing that a single tiling equation is able to encode an arbitrary system of tiling equations, which in turn can encode an arbitrary system of certain functional equations once one has two or more tiles. In particular, one can use two tiles to encode tiling problems for an arbitrary number of tiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1652-1706
Number of pages55
JournalDiscrete and Computational Geometry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Aperiodic tiling
  • Decidability
  • Translational tiling


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