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**pongnguy**
t1_jefy678 wrote

Reply to comment by **_Dnikeb** in **TIL: honeycombs start out circular, and the surface tension of the beeswax pulls them into hexagons as it solidifies, because it is the most energetically favorable conformation.** by **craigdahlke**

Good observation! So it's not surface tension as claimed in the article. If it was only surface tension, I think isolated circular tubes would solidify into a hexagon as well.

I notice a lot of research papers exagerate their findings, and in some cases are just plain wrong, some fraudulently so (see Alzheimer's research scandal).

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**craigdahlke**
OP
t1_jeg14zk wrote

Not so. The article is not exaggerating anything here, if you read it carefully. As another user pointed out, an isolated cell will conform to a circle. The crucial point here is that there is a 3-way junction between the cells that pulls equally in all 3 directions. And it makes sense if you think about it as well. 360 degrees (all directions) divided equally into 3 (surface tensions pulling equally in 3 directions) you get 120 degrees. Which is also, you guessed it, the interior angle of each vertex of a hexagon!

The example with the bundle of straws works on a similar concept, except instead of pulling, you are applying a force to the perimeter of a circle from 6 different directions. 360/6 = 60 degrees, the central angle made by dividing the perimeter into 6 straight sections (I. E. a hexagon).

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**dougglatt69**
t1_jefzzr2 wrote

Actually you've got it backwards. Surface tension is going to pull an isolated cell into a circle as it minimizes length. Of the cell walls. When the circular cells are adjacent. The hexagon shape minimizes the length of the cell walls for adjacent cells

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