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Jun 20, 2010

Cube in a sphere

Source: CMU Spring 2010 Course on Great Theoretical Ideas in Computer Science

Problem: 10% of the surface of a sphere is colored green, and the rest is colored blue. Show that no matter how the colors are arranged, it is possible to inscribe a cube in the sphere so that all of its vertices are blue.

Hint: Use probabilistic analysis. Consider a random cube and calculate the expected number of vertices that are blue.

(Update 23/06/10):
Solution: Posted by connect2ppl - Giridhar Addepalli (CSE, IITK alumnus and Yahoo! Sr. Software Engineer) in comments!


  1. Nice! Reminded me of the various problems that I solved on the 'Probabilistic Method' recently.

  2. Didn't solve it, just wondering if 12.5% is the threshold percentage for this to happen.

    12.5 = 100/#vertices

  3. @sangharsh.. Yes.. its correct..

    @infiniti (Nishant Totla) .. It would be good if you could share some of those problems here :)

  4. for a random cube, expected number of blue vertices is (9/10)*8 = 7.2

    how to go from here?

    if probability of all vertices being blue is +ve, then it implies the existence of a cube we r looking for.

    But, how to get red of dependency among the colors of vertices??

  5. oops!!

    expectation being 7.2 itself proves the existence of cubes where all vertices are blue ( since max value of random variable is 8, 7.2 expected value is possible only bcoz of the existence of cases where its value is 8)

  6. @Giridhar.. Thanks.. Correct solution :)