Pacific Science Center

Bringing science to life.

PacSci-Doku: “What Nature’s Engineers Prefer”

By Dennis Schatz – Senior Advisor

Do you Sudoku? It’s one of the hottest number games around! Well, here’s a twist we think you’ll love. We call it PacSci-Doku. Can you guess why? Here’s how it works. Instead of filling in the blanks with numbers, we use letters. Hidden in one of the columns or rows is the answer to a science question. You’ll find information about the answer on the answer tab below.

The question in this edition is:

What shape does nature’s engineers prefer?

To find the answer, complete this PacSci-Doku using the following nine letters:

O  A  E  B  N  X  G  H  S

PacSci-Doku

Puzzle Difficulty: Easy

The Answer
PacSci-Doku

The Answer

The question in this edition is:

What shape does nature’s engineers prefer?

The answer: Hexagons

If you blow through a straw into a soapy solution, the resulting bubbles tend to take on a five-sided shape (a hexagon). Bees build hexagon shaped honeycombs. The compound eyes of insects are hexagon-shaped. What is so special about this shape? Hexagons are one of only three shapes with sides and angles all equal that pack together on a flat surface without any open space between them – the others being the square and equilateral triangles. What makes hexagons the shape of choice is that it requires the least total length of walls compared to the other two – making it most it the most energy and material-efficient to produce.

The properties of surface tension and flexible nature of bubbles explains why bubbles take on a hexagon shape, but it is more difficult to understand how this works with the bee’s wax and the paper nest of wasps. Find the answers – and more questions — by reading Why Nature Prefers Hexagons in the April 7, 2016 issue of Nautilus.

 

X
X