A sphere has radius R. A cylindrical hole has been drilled straight through the center of the sphere. What's the volume of the remaining solid if the height of the remaining solid is 6 cm high?

  • $\begingroup$ why is not the volume of the sphere less the volume of the cylinder? If you can answer that then solving the problem is not too hard. Also, draw a picture and use the Pythagorean theorem. $\endgroup$ – James S. Cook Aug 5 '13 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ Searching on this page for "drill sphere" leads to numerous solutions to this very problem $\endgroup$ – DJohnM Aug 5 '13 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ @James S. Cook: 'Cause the cylinder has spherical caps on each end... $\endgroup$ – DJohnM Aug 5 '13 at 1:48

Great problem. The result is surprising.

First, place the sphere's center at the origin, and look at it from the perspective of the positive $z$-axis.

Now, notice that the equation of the circle of radius $R$ that you see is $x^2+y^2=R^2$. This shows that the radius of a horizontal cross section of the sphere is $x=\sqrt{R^2-y^2}$. The radius of the cylinder can be found using Pythagorean's theorem. It is $\sqrt{R^2-9}$. It follows that the area of a horizontal cross section of the shape is:


If we integrate this from $y=-3$ to $y=3$ we find the volume of the shape to be $36\pi$. Note this answer doesn't depend on the radius of the sphere! (Although I guess that we assume $R\ge 3$ to stay in the world of real numbers).

You can check that our final answer makes sense in the limiting case that $R=3$. In that case, there is no whole, and the volume of a sphere of radius $3$ is indeed $36\pi$.

  • $\begingroup$ And the final answer is 36pi? I tried that once and it was marked incorrect? $\endgroup$ – briteId Aug 5 '13 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Cee: Well, as far as I can tell, your answer should not have been marked incorrect. $\endgroup$ – Jared Aug 5 '13 at 2:06

We imagine the same thing done to a half-sphere. Then we can multiply by $2$ at the end.

Let the radius of the cylinder be $r$. Then by the Pythagorean Theorem, $r^2=R^2-9$.

If we take a horizontal slice at height $x$, the cross-section is a circle of radius $\sqrt{R^2-x^2}$, with a hole of radius $r$. Thus the cross-sectional area is $\pi(R^2-x^2 -r^2)$. This is $9-x^2$. Integrate from $x=0$ to $x=3$. Then double to get the full remaining volume.

Note that the answer depends neither on $r$ nor $R$!


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