Packing Squares into a Disk with Optimal Worst-Case Density

by   Sandor P. Fekete, et al.

We provide a tight result for a fundamental problem arising from packing squares into a circular container: The critical density of packing squares into a disk is δ=8/5π≈ 0.509. This implies that any set of (not necessarily equal) squares of total area A ≤8/5 can always be packed into a disk with radius 1; in contrast, for any ε>0 there are sets of squares of total area 8/5+ε that cannot be packed, even if squares may be rotated. This settles the last (and arguably, most elusive) case of packing circular or square objects into a circular or square container: The critical densities for squares in a square (1/2), circles in a square (π/(3+2√(2))≈ 0.539) and circles in a circle (1/2) have already been established, making use of recursive subdivisions of a square container into pieces bounded by straight lines, or the ability to use recursive arguments based on similarity of objects and container; neither of these approaches can be applied when packing squares into a circular container. Our proof uses a careful manual analysis, complemented by a computer-assisted part that is based on interval arithmetic. Beyond the basic mathematical importance, our result is also useful as a blackbox lemma for the analysis of recursive packing algorithms. At the same time, our approach showcases the power of a general framework for computer-assisted proofs, based on interval arithmetic.


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