I have recently been teaching myself to solve a Rubik’s Cube. This is mainly because my self-image as an intelligent, analytical geek suggests that it’s the sort of thing I should be able to do.
I also want to be able to show off, and in my warped world-view, being able to ‘do the cube’ is something that one can boast about.
Solving the Rubik’s Cube is the International Genius Symbol. Screenwriters use a character’s ability to solve the cube as a shorthand for high intelligence. But as this clip from one such film shows, there is actually a method to solving the cube that can be learnt. Continue reading “Analogue Apps”
Via Wired, a delightful news story from Quanta Magazine about a retired statistician who solved a famous mathematical conjecture.
Thomas Royen, of Schwalbach am Taunus in Germany, solved the Gaussian Correlation Inequality conjecture (GCI), a problem that had eluded mathematicians since the 1950s. Royen’s breakthrough came by applying statistical methods and functions to a problem that others had been trying to solve using geometry. This has wonderful anecodtal value when we think about problem solving in general: someone with a different point of view was able to crack a conundrum that had eluded the most eminent of tenured mathematicians for two generations. Continue reading “Statistician Solves Famous Mathematical Conjecture and Nobody Notices”
Orchard Toys do a great line in table top games for kids. They include games of chance, strategy and memory using thick card and clear, colourful illustrations. I heartily recommend any of the line as good value for money birthday presents. (They also have a Pirate Memory Game, a fact which will be hilarious to fans of Little Britain).
One of their games is Where’s My Cupcake? Children as young as 3 can play with adults on an equal footing because the game is entirely based on chance. Players take turns to pick a cupcake card off a central pile, and see if it matches one of the cake cards laid out on the table. If it does, they add both cards to their pile. If it does not, they check to see if anyone has a matching card on the top of their pile, asking “would you like a cupcake?” If no-one claims the cupcake card, its placed on the table and the next person takes a turn. Play continues like that until the pile of cards are exhausted. The player with the most cupcake cards is the winner. Full instructions are here.
The only problem with the game is that because it is entirely based on chance, its actually very hard to let a very young person win, if you want them to! Sometimes, a string of bad luck can mean they miss several opportunities to put a cupcake on their plate, and they might lose several games in a row. For someone just learning how to share and play fair, this can be demoralising to the point where they refuse to play. It would be nice to be able to optimise their chance of victory.
Since the game is entirely procedural, the outcome of the game is pre-determined from the moment the cards are shuffled. However, the shuffling involves 30 cards with 10 designs on them, which means there are 4.39 x 1039 possible combinations. Even the fastest super computer in the world would take several millennia to evaluate every combination.
Nevertheless, I decided to script a virtual version of the game, so I could simulate many hundreds of games and discover which player is statistically most likely to win. Armed with that knowledge, I can ensure that the person I want to prevail is sat in that spot when the game is played, and thereby decrease the likelihood of tears before bedtime. Continue reading “So I Built A Cupcake Card Game Simulator”
To be 95% certain of getting the last character you need from the Crossy Road vending machine, you’ll need 26,800 coins. (Jump to the full table.)
Let me explain.
Crossy Road is a game for iOS and Android. It’s been described as ‘endless frogger‘. You begin playing as a chicken, and you have to cross a road and other obstacles.
For extra fun, the game offers additional characters to replace the chicken. At the time of writing there are
72 104 characters: farm-yard animals, jungle frogs, ghosts, zombies, robots, aliens and fauna from the Australian outback. You can even play as humans in the form of the game’s three creators. Continue reading “How many coins do I need to get all the characters in Crossy Road?”
What with the Heartbleed exploit, and approaching anniversary of the Edward Snowden revelations, I have been doing a lot of thinking about encryption of my e-mails and digital files. A couple of weeks ago, at the FairSay e-Campaigning forum, I had a good chat with the folk from Open Rights Group who encouraged me to set up OwnCloud (which I’ve already done) and install open-source encryption for my e-mail.
I operate computers using both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, and use the standard mail applications for each. Its not too hard to find open source encryption for these programmes, but I thought I would oil the cogs of the Internet by linking to them here.
gpg4win is the free and open-source encryption tool for Microsfot Outlook. Installation is a relatively simple procedure and the end result is that you get an extra menu item, ‘Add Ins’, which has a big ‘encrypt this message’ button on it. GPGTools is an analogus appliocation for Apple Mail on a Mac. Installation is just as easy—a single click to run the installer—and little ‘encrypt’ and ‘sign’ icons appear alongside the signature icons in a mail compose window. Continue reading “Free encryption for Outlook and Apple Mail”