Physics Picture of the Week: Pretty Packing

At first glance, this translucent and intricate image struck me as being too pretty for the pages of a physics journal. If it weren’t for the added letters and dotted lines, I might have though it was some abstract work of art.

It is actually part of an experimental study about the way things fold.
To generate the image, physicists at the Laboratoire de Physique Statistique de l’Ecole Normale Supe´rieure
in Paris pulled a mylar sheet through a hole and photographed it from below. They are hoping to learn more about the way flexible structures pack into small spaces.

The study could help us to better understand things such as the way flowers are folded in their buds just before they burst into bloom, the best way to compact trash, and how DNA wraps up in a cell nucleus.

The paper Spiral patterns in the packing of flexible structures by L. Boue´ et al. will be published online in Physical Review Letters tomorrow.

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