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GCHQ Christmas puzzles winners and solutions announced

GCHQ nonogram puzzle

The first puzzle is a super-fun 25×25 nonogram puzzle

Before Christmas, the benign megasurveillance bods at GCHQ released a set of festive puzzles, in the form of a Christmas card and associated website. An initial nonogram puzzle led to a sequence of increasingly fiendish teasers, and solvers of the final set of puzzles were invited to email in their answers, with the correctest winning a fancy paperweight, signed book and, GCHQ were at pains to stress, not an Imitation-Game-style secret job offer.

Learning to play Go: computer edition

go circuit board

In a remarkable example of us being psychic (or, what’s also known as ‘a coincidence’), our recently posted introduction to the game of Go has been made more topical by actual Go-related news.

The game of Go has long been considered a difficult game for artificial intelligences to play – much more so than chess, which has plenty of computer players. A Wired article from 2014 describes Go as ‘the ancient game that computers still can’t win’. As well as having a much larger set of possible games ($10^{761}$, as opposed to $10^{120}$ in chess), Go also has highly complicated strategy, compared to its simple rules, and moves made early on in the game can result in important changes to the state of the board further down the line.

The Aperiodical’s Actual Snowflake Competition – Results

Before Christmas, we launched a winter-themed maths competition – to design a sensible hexagonal snowflake, using a square grid, which could be used to knit a wintery jumper and not a) look terrible or b) have non-hexagonal symmetry. We had a deluge of entries, some valid and others less so – in fact, we may have had at least one entry break each of the rules we set. Below is a round-up of all the entries we received.

New Mersenne prime discovered, and promptly printed out

Breaking news! On 19th January 2016, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search discovered a new largest prime number – we know 49 Mersenne primes, the largest of which is now $2^{74207281}-1$, a number containing over 22 million digits and full of primey goodness.

Internet Maths Person Matt Parker has responded to the news in spectacular style, by issuing a 14-minute long video explaining the discovery and its implications, as well as somehow scoring an interview with the actual discoverer of the new prime, Curtis Cooper.

Particularly mathematical New Years Honours 2016

Once again, it’s time for our traditional trawl through the New Years Honours list for mentions of “mathematics”, hoping that better-informed readers will fill in the people this crude method has missed. I’ve found the following names:

  • Steve Humble (Dr Maths) awarded MBE for services to Education (via Garrod Musto on Twitter);
  • Lynn Churchman of National Numeracy awarded OBE for services to Maths and Numeracy education (via Rob Eastaway on Twitter);
  • Sue Black (Bletchley Park campaigner, among much else) awarded OBE for services to technology (via Colin Wright on Twitter);
  • Margherita Biller (Head of Mathematics, York College), awarded MBE for services to Mathematics in Further Education;
  • Emily Shuckburgh, mathematician and climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey, awarded OBE for services to Science and Public Communication of Science (added in an update 01/01/16, thanks to Colin Cotter on Twitter);
  • Ruth Kaufman, president of the Operational Research Society, awarded OBE for services to Operational Research (added in an update 01/01/16, thanks to Catherine Hobbs in the comments);
  • Clare Sutcliffe, founder of Code Club, awarded MBE for services to technology education (added in an update 01/01/16, thanks to John Read in the comments);
  • Alison Allden, formerly chief executive, Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited, awarded OBE for services to higher education (added in an update 05/01/16, thanks to Susan Oakes in the comments);
  • Professor Dame Ann Dowling, who studied mathematics as an undergraduate and is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Cambridge, is admitted to the Order of Merit for mechanical engineering (added in an update 07/01/16, thanks to Rebecca Waters in the comments).

Are there any others I’ve missed? Please add any of interest in the comments below. A full list may be obtained from the Cabinet Office website.