Embarrassing Questions

I'm sure each of us has a huge list of unanswered questions. Here's a blog for archiving all such questions. It would potentially serve to get us and others some answers which have been eluding us for a long time. The answers can come in the form of comments. Please note that we should stick to questions we had honestly asked when we were in school, or pre-university college. We are strictly barred from trying to find answers to our research problems!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rectangular World!

I am posting on behalf of Tathagat Bhattacharya. I've already sent him an invite. Hopefully, we're going to have him among us as a primary contributer soon. But, till then, here's a very good question he asked:

Since I don't have the privilege to post in this blog, I am posting a question through the comments box:
Why are most of the objects around us rectangular in shape? If you look around within your house, the cot, the walls, the cupboard, the calender, the TV, the fridge etc etc all are rectangular in shape. The list is un-ending. Does anyone have a clue?

To this our very own genius Karthik gave a very creative answer:

I guess most things are rectangular by design. If they were round, for instance, they would roll away and we would have to keep bringing them back to their original positions:)



Blogger Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

I think, a less interesting explanation than Karthik's is that rectangles tend to lend the possibility of optimal spatial arrangement. Given an area of any shape, usually polygonal. There's no way of filling it up completely with non-overlapping circles. So, if there's a space crunch, then the most optimal arrangement can be expected only if there are rectangular objects in two dimensions (cuboidal objects in 3D).

One more aspect is that perhaps we associate a sense of well-arrangedness with the following:
1) parallel lines; 2) normal lines 3) regular angles. Save the artistic experiments with assymmetry, usually regular shapes are soothing to eyes in some way. So, if the objects in our world are going to have edges, then the best way to ensure that they give a regular look is to make them rectangular or cuboidal.

March 11, 2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger Ajit said...

Anything to do with the "golden" ratio?

March 14, 2006 2:11 AM  
Blogger Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Deep down, could be.

A rectangle following the golden ratio follows this rule:

2B^2 = L^2

The normal cartridge printing papers follow that rule. Just checked up. Even my laptop dimensions are close to that. And everybody says my laptop looks good! :)

Ya. Looking around, golden ratio seems to be strewn everywhere! :)

March 14, 2006 2:36 AM  
Blogger Ajit said...

Karthik's reply assumes something, or rather Karthik assumed something when he replied :) - that the surface is flat, only then round things would roll.

What if _all_ the things are round, in that case, the "surfaces" also being round, there would be no question of things rolling here and there. They would just stay stationary.

March 15, 2006 12:59 AM  
Blogger sathya said...

A dull reply...

Rectangular or rather cuboidal shapes are most suited for stacking.

Interestingly, why are (eating) plates always round or oval? I don't think there's any question of space optimisation in that. Most of the kitchen utensils are also circular. Not to mention bar stools...

Interstingly UFO's are always visualised as circular objects!

Personally I'd prefer curved edges to straight ones.

March 15, 2006 7:09 AM  
Blogger Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Satya has a point!

Lots of things are round, falsifying my space optimisation argument. But indeed, why don't they make rectangular plates most of the times?

March 15, 2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Ajit said...

My office cafe has a few thousand rectangular plates :)

March 15, 2006 7:56 PM  
Blogger Pritesh said...

I think it's the stacking thing that makes most of the things rectangular! In solids too, most of the crystal structures are such that they stack well and can be space filling. Most of the crystal structures fit square, rectangular or hexagonal category.......

March 19, 2006 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice site! »

February 16, 2007 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would blame money-minded builder lobby for this. They decided to divide plots in rectangular blocks because with circular blocks, they would not be able to make money for every sqare mm of their land (think of space left between circles).

Then the thrifty consumers built rectangular houses with rectangular walls to make the most out of the land they bought. Once we had rectangular houses, we were left with no choice but to have rectangular objects inside to use their carpet area in best possible way.

June 12, 2007 3:06 PM  

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