You're reading: cp’s mathem-o-blog

A puzzle for another day

A few months ago, my faculty’s PR person sent an email round asking if anyone would like to write a puzzle for the Today programme’s “Puzzle for Today” slot, to be broadcast during the programme’s trip to Newcastle in Freshers’ Week. A colleague said this might be the kind of thing I’d like to do, which it was, so I started thinking, and eventually came up with a brand new puzzle which I thought would work well.

If you listened to the Today programme this Thursday morning, you’ll have heard not my name, but that of Dr Steve Humble, who’s got a lot more experience doing this kind of thing. Turns out, they wanted something more ‘visual and interactive’, so asked him instead. I think that was a polite way of saying they just didn’t like my puzzle. Oh well!

Steve chose a classic puzzle that coincidentally appeared on Twitter about a month ago, prompting much discussion. It’s a good puzzle, much better than the one I came up with, but I don’t think Steve was completely right to say “It is possible that you can always create a winning game” – that’s only the case if there are an even number of coins, but his statement said “around ten coins”. I suppose he might’ve meant that, starting from having a handful of coins, you can decide to only use an even number of them.

The upside is that I can now talk about the puzzle here, where someone might actually enjoy it.

The incredible palindromic hat-trick

Would you like to see something AMAZING?

I’ve made another one of my interactive online maths doodads. You should have a go at it right now. It doesn’t require any effort on your part, other than coming up with a positive integer.

Exactly how bad is the 13 times table?

Let’s recite the $13$ times table. Pay attention to the first digit of each number:

\begin{array}{l} \color{blue}13, \\ \color{blue}26, \\ \color{blue}39, \\ \color{blue}52 \end{array}

What happened to $\color{blue}4$‽

A while ago I was working through the $13$ times table for some boring reason, and I was in the kind of mood to find it really quite vexing that the first digits don’t go $1,2,3,4$. Furthermore, $400 \div 13 \approx 31$, so it takes a long time before you see a 4 at all, and that seemed really unfair.

The OEIS now contains 300,000 integer sequences

The Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences just keeps on growing: at the end of last month it added its 300,000th entry.

Especially round entry numbers are set aside for particularly nice sequences to mark the passing of major milestones in the encyclopedia’s size; this time, we have four nice sequences starting at A300000. These were sequences that were originally submitted with indexes in the high 200,000s but were bumped up to get the attention associated with passing this milestone.

Are you more likely to be killed by a meteor or to win the lottery?

This tweet from the QI Elves popped up on my Twitter timeline:

In the account’s usual citationless factoid style, the Elves state that you’re more likely to be crushed by a meteor than to win the jackpot on the lottery.

The replies to this tweet were mainly along the lines of this one from my internet acquaintance Chris Mingay:

Yeah, why don’t we hear about people being squished by interplanetary rocks all the time? I’d tune in to that!

Donald Knuth’s 2017 Christmas lecture: “A Conjecture That Had To Be True”

Every year, Donald Knuth gives a Christmas lecture at Stanford.

This year, he wanted to talk about a conjecture he’s recently investigated.

It’s just over an hour long. Sit down with a warm drink and enjoy some interesting recreational maths from the master.

Google+