Combinatorial mechanics

Combinatorial mechanics is the name given by my collaborators and me to describe a special body of problems that may be seen as dual to the standard question of mechanical engineering: Instead of asking for a design to bear a given load, we ask how a given design should be loaded. For example, one canonical question is how to place loads on a structure so that the resultant center of gravity lies as close as possible to a given target point. This is the problem of stowing cargo in planes, trucks, or ships.

This work was supported by the Air force Office of Scientific Research and by the National S cience Foundation.