## Abstract

The minimum network problem (Steiner tree problem) in space is much harder than the one in the Euclidean plane. The Steiner tree problem for four points in the plane has been well studied. In contrast, very few results are known on this simple Steiner problem in 3D-space. In the first part of this paper we analyze the difficulties of the Steiner problem in space. From this analysis we introduce a new concept — *Simpson intersections*, and derive a system of iteration formulae for computing Simpson intersections. Using Simpson intersections the Steiner points can be determined by solving quadratic equations. As well this new computational method makes it easy to check the impossibility of computing Steiner trees on 4-point sets by radicals. At the end of the first part we consider some special cases (planar and symmetric 3D-cases) that can be solved by radicals. The Steiner ratio problem is to find the minimum ratio of the length of a Steiner minimal tree to the length of a minimal spanning tree. This ratio problem in the Euclidean plane was solved by D. Z. Du and F. K. Hwang in 1990, but the problem in 3D-space is still open. In 1995 W.D. Smith and J.M. Smith conjectured that the Steiner ratio for 4-point sets in 3D-space is achieved by regular tetrahedra. In the second part of this paper, using the variational method, we give a proof of this conjecture.

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