General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Are spheres natures goto storage shape?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10885points) June 1st, 2010 from iPhone

If you look at most fruit, and animals with extra fat, you might notice that spherical storage seems to be natures modus operandi. Is this right, what are the reasons why this is so?

If spherical storage works for nature does that mean box cars on a train are a mistake?

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21 Answers

iam2smart99037's avatar

Of all the solids having a given volume, the sphere is the one with the smallest surface area; of all solids having a given surface area, the sphere is the one having the greatest volume. So nature just uses what’s most efficient for what it’s trying to store. glucose or or water or whatever.

Trains have are rectangular because the boxes that are in the cars are rectangular prisms and there would be wasted storage space if we tried to fit square boxes into round cars.

Nullo's avatar

@iam2smart99037 Plus, spheres don’t cluster or stack as well as boxes.

lilikoi's avatar

Spheres are the strongest shape.

From a manufacturing standpoint, spheres are difficult to make compared to cubes.

earthduzt's avatar

I’d say yes, just due to the fact that our universe is in the shape of a sphere and it hold billions upon trillions of galaxies..why not our universe in the shape of a cube or a cylinder. Guess it is nature’s go to storage container.

ubersiren's avatar

If you stuff anything full enough, it becomes more spherical. Square boxes lose their edges and corners when stuffed to the gills. Interesting question!

Val123's avatar

Cool question!

Jeruba's avatar

Spheres also equalize the surface tension for stability. Consider soap bubbles.

And look at what happens to pebbles as they get knocked together over time.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’m not sure if I’d go with sphere. Perhaps oval is the truer depiction. I don’t believe there are many perfect spheres in nature, from planets to eggs, and most produce of the roundish variety. Even the planetary orbits are oval.

However, red blood cells are ellipsoidal donuts that help them keep from getting clogged. The exception is an oval shape for those suffering from anemia.

When astronauts do their goofy water droplet demonstrations in space, does the water form perfect spheres or ovals? I think I remember that the spinning is what causes the oval shape for planets, those that don’t spin are more spherical.

I don’t know. Just thinking out loud.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Ok, ovular, ahem

Val123's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Water droplets in space create perfect spheres because the “pressure” inside the water is exactly the same all the way around, even if that pressure is 0.

CMaz's avatar

“Perhaps oval is the truer depiction.”
Due to other forces being exerted on it.

Val123's avatar

I think that, generally speaking, most forces are pretty consistent. If you change the balance, say by blowing wind on a bubble it will elongate (so will a volley ball served at 50 mph straight at your face! What a sight to see as the thing goes “Whaaa uh whaa” just before you get it! Kinda scary, actually!) Anyway, general speaking forces are equal, hence the sphere.

TurningBleft's avatar

I’d say that the best thing for storage would be a TARDIS…. but we’re not talking geekery… so i’m not sure,
I think spherical shapes work for nature, but not so much with modern products, spherical boxes would roll around and if fragile things were inside them it would be a really bad idea

Ltryptophan's avatar

Well, with trains, maybe if instead of box cars, we used a track system that let giant spheres full of coal or gas or something just roll on the tracks like marbles with braces attached and an axle through the middle.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Give me 5 years, I have only really been trying in life for about 4 months. So give me 5 years. I don’t think I’ll need all 5.

LostInParadise's avatar

I think that in many cases a sphere in nature may result from indifference to direction. If placing something in one direction is as good as any other then you get a sphere.

Another cause may be equilibrium of forces. A falling drop of water will eventually take on a spherical shape when the force of friction equals the force of gravity. I don’t know much about the science of soap bubbles, but I imagine their spherical shape is also due to force equilibrium.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


No, you shouldn’t need 5 years. The teachings of Confucius consistently and repeatably suggest that any kingdom may be changed within a three year time frame. A kingdom can be a kingdom, or anything that you set up as a kingdom in your life. Addictions, education, poverty… you get the idea. There are many kingdoms. And three years is the magic number to see a lasting change in whatever kingdom you wish to overthrow.

I have found this to be very true in my own experiences.

Val123's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies And Wisdm was proof of that.

HamieJones's avatar

Surely the aerodynamics of a sphere are not perfect. I may be wrong here (I often am) but isn’t a teardrop the perfect aerodynamical shape? But it’s all about what you’re carrying and if you’re mainly carrying boxes (which is what the name “box car” would imply) then it’s probably best to have something box shaped. But make the front of the train (not each car) as round as possible and the back as tail-like as possible and then you’ll save a bit of energy moving your boxes around. Great question!

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