I’ve put a very clever horse on the internet. He’s called Hans and I’ve made a little video about him.
You can ask Clever Hans your own questions! Go to christianp.github.io/clever-hans and make sure your microphone is turned on. Another proviso: I think only Google Chrome supports the special technology I used to make Hans work. Sorry!
I’ll explain how Hans does his horsey magic below the fold.
Apparently this year’s Scottish New Higher maths exam contained a question which a lot of people found hard. You could remove the word “crocodile” from that headline and obtain a perfectly acceptable statement about a maths exam, but that’s not what people are complaining about.
This summer my wife and I went to America on our honeymoon. We had a lovely time – it was hot, we saw stripey flags in all sizes, and we marvelled at what substances count as “food” in the land of the free.
But what I really want to tell you about is the National Museum of Mathematics in New York. We couldn’t fly all the way to the East coast of America and not pay a visit. So we did!
My wife’s grandmother is a fearsome character. She’s in her nineties but still has all her wits about her. In fact, she’s got more than her fair share of wits. Whenever we visit her, she hits me with a barrage of questions and puzzles collected from the last several decades of TV quiz shows and newspaper games pages. My worth as a grandson-in-law is directly proportional to how many answers I get right.
One of her favourite modes of attack is the “30 Second Challenge” from the Daily Mail. It looks like this:
You start with the number on the left, then follow the instructions reading right until you get to the answer at the end. It’s one of Grandma’s favourites because it’s very hard to do in your head when she’s just reading it out!
The basic idea is that you have a grid of numbered tiles, and you combine them to build up your score. While there are lots of unimaginative derivatives of the bigger games, there’s a surprisingly large range of different games following this template.
With so many different games being created, I thought that a chap like me should be able to come up with a numbers-in-a-grid game of my own. Yet, for a long time, I just couldn’t come up with anything that was any good.
I’m a big fan of novelty domain names: I once bought hotmathematicians.com just so that firstname.lastname@example.org could be my corresponding address when I submitted a paper. That domain has expired, but my love for one-shot novelty purchases has not!
To celebrate π day this year, I decided that it should be possible to type a little bit of π into the internet and be given the rest of it. You can have dots in domain names, so a domain like “three.something.com” is possible. I only know π to two decimal places off the top of my head, so I was dismayed to learn that onefour.com is being squatted.
After a bit of googling to find more digits of π (hey, this website will be really useful once I set it up!), I found the first decimal approximation which hasn’t already been registered: