Favourite Distances in $3$-Space

  • Konrad J. Swanepoel


Let $S$ be a set of $n$ points in Euclidean $3$-space. Assign to each $x\in S$ a distance $r(x)>0$, and let $e_r(x,S)$ denote the number of points in $S$ at distance $r(x)$ from $x$. Avis, Erdős and Pach (1988) introduced the extremal quantity $f_3(n)=\max\sum_{x\in S}e_r(x,S)$, where the maximum is taken over all $n$-point subsets $S$ of $3$-space and all assignments $r\colon S\to(0,\infty)$ of distances. We show that if the pair $(S,r)$ maximises $f_3(n)$ and $n$ is sufficiently large, then, except for at most $2$ points, $S$ is contained in a circle $\mathcal{C}$ and the axis of symmetry $\mathcal{L}$ of $\mathcal{C}$, and $r(x)$ equals the distance from $x$ to $C$ for each $x\in S\cap\mathcal{L}$. This, together with a new construction, implies that $f_3(n)=n^2/4 + 5n/2 + O(1)$.

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