Sir Roger Penrose is standing outside the Mathematical Institute in Oxford in his tweed jacket, his hair flapping in the wind, explaining the astonishing rhomboid tiling scheme he invented in the 1970s that covers the courtyard beneath our feet.

“This,” he says, using his walking stick, “is a pattern that seems to be orderly, but you can keep going to infinity and it can never quite repeat itself. It’s very beautiful. I rather like walking over it.”

Sir Roger, 89, is oblivious to the stares of the undergraduates who have stopped on their bikes and are looking in awe at this year’s Nobel prize winner for physics. Nor does he notice that the mask he has been given features a pattern of his tiles.

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