TED Conversations

Steven Glover

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What shape is a bubble surrounded on all sides by other bubbles, all of equal size?

I'm not a trained mathematician, but the best guess I can think of is a pentagonal dodecahedron.
Soon I will purchase my first 3d printer, and I intend to print out structures which are light and strong.
Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel, I'm of the opinion nature has solved most of our greatest engineering challenges. A bubble is the most efficient ratio between volume and surface area. Whatever shape a bubble will take when surrounded on all sides, should be the most efficient shape which could be reproduced in a lattice structure.

  • Mar 31 2014: Steven

    A mind teaser most definitely. What would be the practical application if successful? As you say, all bubbles of equal size to include wall thickness and strength, inner resistance to exterior pressures? Would atmospheric pressure play a roll?
  • Mar 29 2014: Patterning engineering projects after what is observed in nature sounds like a good idea. I think formation of ice crystals and snow flakes might be worth a look. Maybe bee hives. Perhaps tree cells might also be interesting. I remember reading an article in "Nature" about how submarine designers were studying sharks carefully to see how they moved through the water.

    Part of the observation should include an understanding of what nature is trying to accomplish with the structure being formed. In the case of the bubbles, there is a relative pressure difference to consider, perhaps surface tension issues, perhaps characteristics of the material making the bubble and the environment the bubble is occurring.

    Sounds to me like your on the right track. Good Luck!
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    Mar 28 2014: human cell?
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    Mar 27 2014: I would be a combination of triangle and square faces. I don't think there is an actual name for it.
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    Mar 25 2014: Yes, you are correct. The shape would be a pentagonal dodecahedron.