I happened to see this old tweet from Steven Strogatz today:
Here’s a direct link to the video:
I was super excited to see this new work from Kelsey Houston-Edwards since, for one(!), I was really hoping that mathematicians would publicize the sphere packing result and find ways to make it accessible to the general public:
A challenge for professional mathematicians
I was fortunate to be able to attend Maryna Viazovska’s talk at Harvard and Henry Cohn’s talk about BU about the new sphere packing results. Although I don’t have nearly the mathematical sophistication to be able to write about the result in any detail, both talks were great. There’s also a link in the post below to a nice talk from Henry Cohn about the history of the sphere packing problem, but I think that’s as close as you can get to the problem without diving into very heavy math:
Maryna Viazovska’s Sphere Packing talk at Harvard
Because of the difficulty of the problem I haven’t been able to figure out to much to do with kids – but I did try two projects in 2 dimensions:
The 2-dimensional version of the sphere packing problem is a fun problem to explore with kids:
Sphere packing – well . . . Circle packing with kids
Using a Natalie Wolchover article to talk about hyperuniform distributions kids
The two higher dimensional sphere problems that Houston-Edwards discusses in the 2nd part of the video are ideas that are accessible to kids.
An old tweet from Steven Strogatz had inspired me to try to talk to kids about the area and volume of circles in different dimensions:
Showing the kids about the area of a circle
We’ll try a new project tomorrow to understand some of the volume properties mention in Houston-Edwards’s video.
I learned the problem about the central spheres from Bjorn Poonen earlier this year and wrote about it here:
A Strange Problem I overheard Bjorn Poonen discussing
Bjorn Poonen’s n-dimensional sphere problem with kids
A fun surprise in Bjorn Poonen’s n-dimensional sphere problem
I called the problem “Bjorn Poonen’s n-dimensional sphere problem” because I learned about it from him. So, to be 100% clear, he wasn’t taking credit for the problem. I learned later from Alexander Bogomolny that at least the two parts of the problem discussed in the video were attributed to Leo Moser
I don’t know the origin of the 3rd part of Poonen’s problem.
The “fun surprise” in the last post discusses an unexpected relationship between and $\latex e$ that makes the 3rd part of Poonen’s problem work.
Anyway, I’m really excited for this new video series – can’t wait to see what comes next!