October 9th 2007

Optimal solution for the block stacking problem found


I attended an interesting seminar on the block stacking problem today given by Professor Mike Paterson of the University of Warwick.

Like all good problems, it can be stated simply: how far can a stack of *n* identical blocks be made to hang over the edge of a table?

The answer was widely believed to be of order log n (like the white shaded example above), but Mike Paterson and Uri Zwick previously constructed overhangs of order n^{1/3}.

In the seminar today, Paterson and his co-authors presented their proof that order *n^{1/3}* is indeed the upper bound possible, resolving a long-standing mathematical problem. Professor Paterson is an excellent orator, highly recommended.

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