Copyright ©2008 by Paul Niquette. All rights reserved. Science has a modern definition  "reverse engineering nature."  Paul Niquette Sophisticated:
The
Magazine 1996

s asked in the
puzzle, for various sizes of
cylindrical containers, "Is a
heighttodiameter ratio of 1.5 especially
economical?" The implication is that,
contrary to production of living things by natural
selection, creations by intelligent design are not
necessarily constrained by the SquareCube Law.
In other words, size does not influence shape. To
answer the question, solvers of the TinCan Mystery must carry out
an analysis that somehow separates size from
shape. Let's get to work.
A cylindrical container with diameter D inches and height H inches requires a surface area... [1] A
= D H + 2 (/4) D^{ 2 }square
inches of material to accommodate a volume... To facilitate the analysis, let us define a dimensionless ratio... [3] C =
H / D, so that substitution of H
= C D into [2]... Substituting [5] into [1], produces the following relationship: [6] A
= ^{1/3}(4V)^{ 2/3 }(C
+ ^{1}/2)C^{ 2/3 }in
which we identify two factors... Observe that the size factor F_{SIZE} imposes
the SquareCube Law as follows:
Meanwhile, the shape factor F_{SHAPE} plays
an independent role...
ur economic objective calls for the minimum value of A; however, F_{SIZE} is fixed by the assumed value of V in [2]. Thus, for the solution to TinCan Mystery puzzle, we must ascertain the value of C that produces the minimum value of F_{SHAPE} and compare it to 1.5. Sophisticated solvers will remember their elementary Differential Calculus and proceed as follows: [10] d[(C
+ ^{1}/2)^{ }C^{ 2/3}] / dC
= (^{1}/3)(C^{ 2/3 } C^{ 5/3}) =
0, which simplifies to...
That will not surprise sophisticated solvers who know that for any volume, a sphere has the smallest surface area. A tincan with C = 1.0 mandates that H = D, which is about as close to a spherical shape as a cylinder can get. For maximizing volumetric efficiency, designers of internal combustion engines exploit H = D (stroke = bore) in what they called the "square cylinder," by which swept area and therefore heatloss is minimized for a given displacement. Substituting [12] into [6], we obtain the minimum surface area for a cylindrical container required to accommodate a given volume... [13] A_{MINIMUM} =^{1/3}(4V)^{ 2/3 }(1.0 + ^{1}/2) 1.0^{ 2/3} = ^{1/3 }(4V)^{ 2/3 }(1^{1}/2). Any value of C > 1.0 or C < 1.0 will require more than the minimum amount of material... [14] A_{EXCESS} = ^{1/3}(4V)^{ 2/3 }[(C + ^{1}/2) C^{ 2/3 } 1^{1}/2], as shown as a percentage of A_{MINIMUM} in the graph below... hether the product of natural selection or intelligent design, size is not the only determinant of shape. In the TinCan Mystery puzzle, the oil barrel accommodates more than 500 times the volume of a soup can but has the same shape (C = 1.5). According to the graph, both will take about 2% excess material over the minimum for an enclosed cylinder.
Cupboards and refrigerators, boxes and boxcars, trailers and trucks, cartons and crates, warehouses and shipping containers  all are rectangular in both elevation and planform, none are themselves cylindrical. Cylinders are indeed round pegs in square holes. It is easy to show that every caninabox takes up 21.46% more volume than it holds (1 /4). Not much can be done about that. Intelligent design of the box or carton may be another story. Let a box enclose cylindrical containers (cans) having dimensions D and C D. Assume the cans are arranged in m by n rows. The internal surface area of the box to accommodate the cans would be given by... [15] A_{CANS} = 2 D^{2} [C (m + n) + m n]. Of course, the box will require more material than that for structure and strength. ou might enjoy reverse engineering the following reallife case: A takehome cardboard carton is designed to hold 12 aluminum softdrink cans in two rows of 6. Each takes up a volume inside the carton V = C D^{3}. Unfold the carton and you will find a narrow flap for gluing along one of the long edges (m D), plus 100% glued overlaps on both ends (2 n D H). Try substituting these numbers into [15]. You will find the value of C that requires the least amount of cardboard is 1.9. Coincidence?
Epilog The following explanation was received in July 2008 from Myles Buckley: The 4% excess material is a function of burst strength vs crush load resistance, according to Duncan Hosford in "The Aluminum Beverage Can" in the September 1994 edition of Scientific American Magazine. Hosford described the efforts of Coca Cola and Pepsi Co. to minimize the need for aluminium, which imposes by far the single highest cost of production for their canned soft drinks. The popcan is very thin on its sidewall. More aluminum by mass is found in the top ridges (not to cut the drinker's lips) and more again at the base. The can has three "pieces." A slug of aluminum is extruded to form the base and sides; a disk forms the top (including the "button" that holds the pull tab); the pulltab itself is the third piece. Ten years
after the publication of TinCan
Mystery, in July 2018, the link to a
brilliantly produced video entitled The
Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can
was received from longtime friend Norm Bryga,
who neglected to warn me that one might become
tempted to devote many hours indeed studying the
animated presentations of Engineerguy.
 PN




