Sunday, May 01, 2016

Some more bits from the Gathering for Gardner

I posted about the Gathering for Gardner conference and about some of the talks I saw here. Today I continue with a few more talks.

Playing Penney's game with Roulette by Robert Vallen. Penney;'s game is the following:  let k be fixed. Alice and Bob pick different elements of {H,T}^k.  They flip a coin until one of their sequences shows up, and that person wins. Which sequences have the best probability of winning?

New Polyhedral dice by Robert Fathauer, Henry Segerman, Robert Bosch. This is a good example of how my mentality (and possibly yours) differs from others. When I hear ``60-sided dice'' I think ``p1,...,p60 where are all between 0 and 1 and add up to 1'' I also thought that only the platonic solids could be usedvto form fair dice (so only 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 12-sided, and 20-sided dice can be made). NOT so. These authors actually MAKE real dice and they do not have to be platonic solids. Here is their website.

Numerically balance dice by Robert Bosch (paper is here). Why do dice have the opposite sides sum to the same thing?  Read the paper to find out!

Secret messages in juggling and card shuffling by Erik Demaine. Erik Demaine was one of about 4 theoretical computer scientists I met at the conference, though Erik is so well rounded that calling him a theoretical computer scientist doesn't seem quite right. I had never met him before which surprised me. In this talk he showed us some new fonts- one using juggling. See here for an example of juggling fonts, co-authored with his father Martin.

Fibonacci Lemonade by Andrea Johanna Hawksley. Put in the leomon and sugar in fib number increments. Here is their website. In my first post I said the talks were on a variety of topics and then presented mostly math talks. This talk is an example of that variety. There were other talks involving the Fib numbers. I was surprised by this since they aren't that special (see here).

Penis Covers and Puzzles: Brain Injuries and Brain Health by Gini Wingard-Phillips. She recounted having various brain injuries and how working on mathematical puzzles, of the type Martin Gardner popularized as HELPING HER RECOVER! As for the title- people with brain injuries sometimes have a hard time finding the words for things so they use other words. In this case she wanted her husband to buy some condoms but couldn't think of the word so she said Penis Covers instead.

Loop- Pool on an Ellipse by Alex Bellos. Similar in my mind to the Polyhedral dice talk (you'll see why). We all know that if you built an elliptical pool table with a hole at one of the foci then if the ball is placed at the other foci and hit hard enough it WILL go into the other hole. But Alex Bellos actually MAKES these pool table (see here if you want buy one for $20,000). He told us the history- someone else tried to make one in 1962 but nobody bought them (I wonder if anyone are going to buy his), and Alex had problems with friction as you may recall that it only works on a frictionless surface. So his game does require some skill. The similarity to dice is that I (and you?) are used to thinking about dice and ellipses abstractly, not as objects people actually build.

This post is getting long so I'll stop here and report more in a later post. Why so mny posts? Six minute talks that I an actually understand and are delighted to tell you about!

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