Research using M&Ms sheds light on particle-packing problem
Paul Chaikin, left, professor of physics, and Salvatore Torquato, right, professor of chemistry
The M&Ms are the peanut variety, suitable for snacks, not science.
For most people, a regular lunch of M&Ms and coffee would lead to no good. For Princeton physicist Paul Chaikin and collaborators, it spurred fundamental insights into an age-old problem in mathematics and physics.
Chaikin and Princeton chemist Salvatore Torquato used the candies to investigate the physical and mathematical principles that come into play when particles are poured randomly into a vessel. While seemingly simple, the question of how particles pack together has been a persistent scientific problem for hundreds of years and has implications for fields such as the design of high-density ceramic materials for use in aerospace or other applications.
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