Sphericity is a measure of how spherical (round) an object is. As such, it is a specific example of a compactness measure of a shape. Defined by Wadell in 1935, the sphericity, Psi , of a particle is the ratio of the surface area of a sphere (with the same volume as the given particle) to the surface area of the particle:

Psi = frac{pi^{frac{1}{3}}(6V_p)^{frac{2}{3}}}{A_p}

where V_p is volume of the particle and A_p is the surface area of the particle

Ellipsoidal Objects

The sphericity, Psi , of an oblate spheroid (similar to the shape of the planet Earth) is defined as such:

Psi =
frac{pi^{frac{1}{3}}(6V_p)^{frac{2}{3}}}{A_p} = frac{2sqrt[3]{ab^2}}{a+frac{b^2}{sqrt{a^2-b^2}}ln{(frac{a+sqrt{a^2-b^2}}b)}}

''(where a, b are the semi-major, semi-minor axes, respectively.


Hakon Wadell defined sphericity as the surface area of a sphere of the same volume as the particle divided by the actual surface area of the particle.

First we need to write surface area of the sphere, A_s in terms of the volume of the particle, V_p

A_{s}^3 = left(4 pi r^2right)^3 = 4^3 pi^3 r^6 = 4 pi left(4^2 pi^2 r^6right) = 4 pi cdot 3^2 left(frac{4^2 pi^2}{3^2} r^6right) = 36 pi left(frac{4 pi}{3} r^3right)^2 = 36,pi V_{p}^2


A_{s} = left(36,pi V_{p}^2right)^{frac{1}{3}} = 36^{frac{1}{3}} pi^{frac{1}{3}} V_{p}^{frac{2}{3}} = 6^{frac{2}{3}} pi^{frac{1}{3}} V_{p}^{frac{2}{3}} = pi^{frac{1}{3}} left(6V_{p}right)^{frac{2}{3}}

hence we define Psi as:

Psi = frac{A_s}{A_p} = frac{ pi^{frac{1}{3}} left(6V_{p}right)^{frac{2}{3}} }{A_{p}}

Sphericity of common objects

Name Picture Volume Area Sphericity
Platonic Solids
tetrahedron frac{sqrt{2}}{12},s^3 sqrt{3},s^2 left(frac{pi}{6sqrt{3}}right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.671
cube (hexahedron) ,s^3 6,s^2 left( frac{pi}{6} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.806
octahedron frac{1}{3} sqrt{2}, s^3 2 sqrt{3}, s^2 left( frac{pi}{3sqrt{3}} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.846
dodecahedron frac{1}{4} left(15 + 7sqrt{5}right), s^3 3 sqrt{25 + 10sqrt{5}}, s^2 left( frac{left(15 + 7sqrt{5}right)^2 pi}{12left(25+10sqrt{5}right)^{frac{3}{2}}} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.910
icosahedron frac{5}{12}left(3+sqrt{5}right), s^3 5sqrt{3},s^2 left(frac{ left(3 + sqrt{5} right)^2 pi}{60sqrt{3}} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.939
Round Shapes
ideal cone

frac{1}{3} pi, r^2 h
= frac{2sqrt{2}}{3} pi, r^3

pi, r (r + sqrt{r^2 + h^2})
= 4 pi, r^2

left(frac{1}{2} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.794
(half sphere)
frac{2}{3} pi, r^3 3 pi, r^2 left( frac{16}{27} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.840
ideal cylinder
pi r^2 h = 2 pi,r^3 2 pi r (r + h ) = 6 pi,r^2 left( frac{2}{3} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.874
ideal torus
2 pi^2 R r^2 = 2 pi^2 ,r^3 4 pi^2 R r = 4 pi^2,r^2 left( frac{9}{4 pi} right)^{frac{1}{3}} approx 0.894
sphere frac{4}{3} pi r^3 4 pi,r^2 1,

Sphericity in statistics

In statistical analyses, sphericity relates to the equality of the variances of the differences between levels of the repeated measures factor. Sphericity requires that the variances for each set of difference scores are equal. This is an assumption of an ANOVA with a repeated measures factor, where violations of this assumption can invalidate the analysis conclusions. Mauchly's sphericity test is the statistical test used to evaluate sphericity.


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