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Proof Confirmed of 400-Year-Old Fruit-Stacking Problem


Oranges are not the only stacking fruit.

A computer-verified proof of a 400-year-old problem could pave the way for an era in which machines do the grunt work, leaving humans free for deeper thinking.

Credit: Ray Tang/Rex

A computer-verified proof of a 400-year-old problem could pave the way for a new era of mathematics, in which machines do the grunt work and leave humans free for deeper thinking.

The problem is a puzzle familiar to greengrocers everywhere: what is the best way to stack a collection of spherical objects, such as a display of oranges for sale? In 1611 Johannes Kepler suggested that a pyramid arrangement was the most efficient, but couldn't prove it.

Now, a mathematician has announced the completion of an epic quest to formally prove the so-called Kepler conjecture. "An enormous burden has been lifted from my shoulders," says Thomas Hales of the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who led the work. "I suddenly feel ten years younger!"

 

From New Scientist
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