Join us for a talk by Professor Paul Chaikin, New York University on "Experimental Geometry: Experiments with Candies, Dice and Colloids."
Packing problems (how densely objects can fill a volume) are among the most ancient and persistent problems in mathematics and science. The oldest of these is the Kepler (1611) conjecture, which states that the most efficient way to pack spheres, leaving as few gaps as possible, happens to be the way that greengrocers stack oranges. More recently there has been intense interest in the packing of non-spherical shapes such as ellipsoids. By pouring M&M’s(c) Candies into a container, Professor Chaikin and his team have shown that randomly packed ellipsoids can pack more efficiently than spheres.
They have also conducted similar experiments with tetrahedral dice; in this case, the densest packing arrangement is still unknown. Such packing problems provide insights into host of physical phenomena such as granular materials, rigidity, jamming, and why amorphous glasses don't flow.
Professor Paul Chaikin currently teaches at New York University. He is well known in the field of soft condensed matter physics and recently received praise for his research in packing of oblate spheroids. With T.C. Lubensky he co-wrote the famous graduate text Principles of Condensed Matter Physics, which for the past fifteen years has been the bible of the field.
This talk is part of the International Workshop on Packing Problems that takes place in the School of Physics, Trinity College, from September 2 to 5 (www.packingproblems.com).