1d4 For The Win

Geek Culture

Image: www.kent.eduImage: www.kent.edu

Image: www.kent.edu

News from The Department of Geek Things You Didn’t Even KNOW There Were Records For:

A team of professors from Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan have set a new world record for packing the most tetrahedra into a given volume. According to the announcement from Kent State, “The researchers were able to obtain the highest packing fraction of 85.03, meaning tetrahedra fill 85.03 percent of the volume of the container. This shattered the previous record of 78.2 percent set by two Princeton University researchers in August 2009.”

Now, should you wonder about the real world ramifications of this – beyond, of course, the awesome bragging rights and celebratory T-shirt possibilities – KSU Liquid Crystal Institute associate director Peter Palffy-Muhoray explains that “Applications are far-ranging, including high-resolution imaging useful for microscopy in medicine and materials science. This new packing method could enable the production of new kinds of materials, useful for computer chips, building materials and fabrics.”

And for geeks of a certain stripe, there’s this brief but noteworthy recollection from mathematical sciences assistant professor Xiaoyu Zheng: “We carried out experiments here at Kent State using tetrahedral dice to see how densely we could pack them.”

That’s right: They made the lowly 1d4 into a World Freaking Record.

Their detailed findings are in the Dec. 10 issue of Nature in an article called Disordered, quasicrystalline and crystalline phases of densely packed tetrahedra.

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