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Physical carrier sensing plays an important role in collision avoidance in wireless networks, and the size of the physical carrier sense threshold has a great impact on the system performance. As the channel access activities and packet reception rate of a node is affected by the accumulative interference, we present a new analytical approach that demonstrates how to tune the sense threshold to reduce the interference. The optimum carrier sensing range should balance the spatial reuse and the impact of interference in order to optimize the aggregate throughput of nodes (users). Then we present a new heuristic algorithm to optimize the physical carrier sense threshold by measuring the state of the channel in IEEE 802.11 ad hoc networks. The proposed algorithm can approach the optimum carrier sense threshold to maximize the throughput through both analysis and simulations.