Out of a Magic Math Function, a Solution to Rule Them All

Three years ago, Maryna Viazovska, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, dazzled mathematicians by identifying the densest way to pack equal-sized spheres in eight- and 24-dimensional space (the second of these in collaboration with four co-authors). Now, she and her co-authors have proved something even more remarkable: The configurations that solve the sphere-packing problem in those two dimensions also solve an infinite number of other problems about the best arrangement for points that are trying to avoid each other.

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