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Tiny balls fit best inside a sausage, physicists confirm

Mathematicians have long been fascinated by the most efficient way of packing spheres in a space, and now physicists have confirmed that the best place to put them is into a sausage shape, at least for small numbers of balls

By Alex Wilkins

12 December 2023

Simulations show microscopic plastic balls within a cell membrane

Marín-Aguilar, S., Camerin, F., van der Ham, S. et al. 2023

What is the most space-efficient way to pack tennis balls or oranges? Mathematicians have studied this “sphere-packing” problem for centuries, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to replicating the results in the real world. Now, physical experiments involving microscopic plastic balls have confirmed what mathematicians had long suspected – with a small number of balls, it is best to stick them in a sausage.

Johannes Kepler was the first…

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