The Cone Problem (The Easier Sequel to the Hemisphere Problem)


That hemisphere problem (see previous two posts) was quite difficult. I’m going to unwind a  bit with the much easier cone version of the same problem: at what height x above the ground, expressed as a fraction of h, must a cone of height h and radius r be cut, in order for the two pieces produced by the cut to have equal volume? The fact that a path down the lateral surface of a cone is a straight line, not a curve, should make this much easier than the hemisphere problem.

Since the volume of a cone is (1/3)πr²h, and the smaller cone created above the cut would be half that volume, it follows that

(1/3)πr²h = (2/3)π(r′)²h′                [equation 1]

By cancellation of (1/3)π, this equation becomes

r²h = 2(r’)²h’               [equation 2]

Also, based on divisions of the cone’s altitude, we know that

h = h′ + x                [equation 3]

Furthermore, since the problem asks that the height x be expressed as a fraction of h, we can let that fraction (a decimal between zero and one) be represented by f, so that

x = fh               [equation 4]

Also, by using similar right triangles’ corresponding legs, we know that

r/h = r′/h′                [equation 5]

which rearranges to

rh′ = r′h                  [equation 6]

There is a proportionality constant in play here, p, defined as the fraction of the length of one part of the larger cone which equals the length of the corresponding part of the smaller cone. As equations, then,

r′ = pr         and          h′ = ph              [equations 7a and 7b]

Also, because p is the fraction of h which is h′, and f is the fraction of h which is x, and h = h′ + x, it follows that

p + f = 1                  [equation 8].

Next, by substituting equations 7a and 7b into equation 2 for r′ and h′, we know that

r²h = 2(pr)²ph               [equation 9]

Which reduces to

1 = 2p³               [equation 10]

When equation 10 is solved for p, it becomes

p = (1/2)^(1/3)                [equation 11]

And, since equation 8 states that p + f = 1, it follows that f = 1 – p, and f is the fraction we seek. By substituting equation 11 for p in f = 1 – p, the following value for f can be determined:

f = 1 – (1/2)^(1/3)               [equation 12]

This leads to the following cleaned-up solution to the problem, shown in standard exact form, and with a decimal approximation as well.


The cut, therefore, should be made approximately 20.6% of the way from the bottom to the top of the full cone.

To check this answer, I need only find the volume of the smaller cone, times two, and show that it equals the value of the larger cone.

2(volume of smaller cone) = (2/3)π(r′)²h′ = (2/3)π(pr)²ph =

(2/3)πp³r²h = (2/3)π(cube root of ½)³r²h = (2/3)π(1/2)r²h = (1/3)πr²h,

which is the volume of the full cone, as it should be. The problem has now been solved, and the solution f (by way of p, which equals 1 – f, by a rearrangement of equation 8) has been checked.

The Hemisphere Problem (See Next Post for the Solution)


A hemisphere rests with its circular base on a horizontal, level surface, and is to be cut into two pieces of equal volume. If the hemisphere’s radius is r, at what fraction of r above the floor should the horizontal cut be made?

[Solution in next post:]

An Unsolved Problem Involving the Icosahedron and the Dodecahedron, and Their Circumscribed Spheres

This is apparently a problem, posed by Gregory Galperin, which went unsolved at the Bay Area Math Olympiad in 2005. I haven’t solved it yet, but I’m going to try, as I work on this blog-post. My 2010 source is a paper about Zome which may be read, as a .pdf, at The problem involves a dodecahedron and an icosahedron, each inscribed inside the same sphere of radius r, and asks which has the greater volume. At the time the authors wrote this paper, they knew of no solution, and I know of none now, but I do like a challenge.

My idea for solving this begins with Zome (info on Zome:  see, as well as other sites you can find by googling “Zome”). In the Zome geometry system, using B1 struts for the edges of both a dodecahedron and an icosahedron, R1 struts are the radii of the circumscribed sphere for the icosahedron,  and Y2 struts are the radii for the circumscribed sphere of the dodecahedron. Since volume formula for polyhedra are generally given in term of edge-length, I need to find B1 in terms of R1 for the icosahedron, and find B1 in terms of Y2 for the dodecahedron.


Icosahedron:  find B1, in terms of R1.

There exists a right triangle which can be built in Zome which has a hypotenuse equal to 2R1, and legs epqual to B1 and B2. B2 = φB1, so, by the Pythagorean Theorem, (2R1)^2 = (B1)^ + φ²(B1)², which simplifies to 4(R1)^2 = (1 + φ²)(B1)^2, which can then be solved for B1 as B1 = sqrt[4(R1)^2/(1 + φ²)]. B1 here is the icosahedron’s edge-length, while R1 is the radius of its circumscribed sphere.


Dodecahedron:  find B1, in terms of Y2.

In the Zome system, Y2 = φY1, and Y1 = [sqrt(3)/2]B1. Rearrangement of the first of these equations yields Y1 = Y2/φ, and substitution then yields [sqrt(3)/2]B1 = Y2/φ, which then can be rearranged to yield B1 = 2Y2/[φsqrt(3)]. B1 here is the dodecahedron’s edge-length, while Y2 is the radius of its circumscribed sphere.

Next, find the volume of the icosahedron inscribed inside a sphere, in terms of that sphere’s radius.

According to, the volume of an icosahedron is given by V = (5/12)[3 + sqrt(5)]a³, where a is the edge length, or B1 in the first indented section, between the two images, above.  Then, by substitution, V = (5/12)[3 + sqrt(5)]{sqrt[4(R1)^2/(1 + φ²)]}³, which then becomes (with “r” being the radius of the circumscribed sphere) V = (5/12)[3 + sqrt(5)][2r/sqrt(1 + φ²)]³ = (40/12)[3 + sqrt(5)][1/sqrt(1 + φ²)]³r³ = (10/3)[3 + sqrt(5)][1/sqrt(1 + φ²)]³r³. Then, using the identity φ² = φ + 1, this can be further simplified to V = (10/3)[3 + sqrt(5)][1/sqrt(2 + φ)]³r³.

Next, find the volume of the dodecahedron inscribed inside the same sphere, in terms of that sphere’s radius, r.

According to, the volume of an icosahedron is given by V = (1/4)[15 + 7sqrt(5)]a³, where a is the edge length, or B1 in the second indented section, below the second image, above.  Then, by substitution, V = (1/4)[15 + 7sqrt(5)]{2Y2/[φsqrt(3)]}³, which then becomes (with “r” being the radius of the circumscribed sphere) V = (8/4)[15 + 7sqrt(5)]{1/[φsqrt(3)]}³r³ = 2[15 + 7sqrt(5)]{1/[3sqrt(3)]}(1/φ³)r³ = (2/3)[15 + 7sqrt(5)][sqrt(3)/3](1/φ³)r³  = [2sqrt(3)/9][15 + 7sqrt(5)](1/φ³)r³.

So, with the “r” in each case being the same, the icosahedron is larger than the dodecahedron iff (10/3)[3 + sqrt(5)][1/sqrt(2 + φ)]³ > [2sqrt(3)/9][15 + 7sqrt(5)](1/φ³), which simplifies to (5)[3 + sqrt(5)][1/sqrt(2 + φ)]³ > [2sqrt(3)/3][15 + 7sqrt(5)](1/φ³), which simplifies further to {5/[sqrt(2 + φ)]³}[3 + sqrt(5)] > [2sqrt(3)/3φ³][15 + 7sqrt(5)], which is, as a decimal approximation, is (0.726542528)(5.2360679774998) > (3.464101615/12.708203932)(30.6524758), or 3.804226 > 8.355492, which is false, meaning that the dodecahedron is larger, not the icosahedron.

Now for the bad part:  I think I’m wrong, but I don’t know where the error lies. I’m also tired. If any of you see the mistake, please point it out in a comment, and I’ll try to fix this after I’ve rested.

Update:  if the websites and work correctly, then the dodecahedron is larger. Evidence:

volume calculators

This does not, however, mean that I did the problem correctly. I merely stumbled upon the correct answer. How do I know this? Simple:  the ratio I obtained was too far off. Therefore, I would still welcome help clearing up the mystery of where my error(s) is/are, in the calculations shown above.