Published as part of his "Mathematical Recreations" column in Scientific
American (February 1992), this story concerns human colonists on Mars
who are trying to figure out how many non-overlapping "circular" regions of a
fixed radius they can put on the planet. Though in the story the regions
are the ranges of TV transmitters and the problem is complicated by ancient
Martian artifacts, the point of the story is to introduce an example of a
packing problem and to discuss several real results on such problems in
mathematics. |