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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is the squirrel rabid or is there method to the madness?

Iterations, boundaries, chaos, order, complexity....... who can blame the squirrel for darting straight back up the tree?

But maybe from the safety of its tree limb it would be willing to watch some monkeys play a game below.

There is a square playing field and each monkey has a bag of large, identical game pieces; no two monkey's pieces are shaped exactly the same though. In fact, some are very close, some are nothing alike, and most fall somewhere in the middle. A whistle blows and each walks up to another monkey, takes one of its pieces out, and sees if they fit together. If they do fit, they place the interlocked piece on the ground. If they do not fit, they put their pieces back in their bags. Once all the monkeys have interacted with every other monkey, they walk off the field.

The field is littered with one layer of interlocked pieces now. Some monkey's pieces didn't get used at all; their pieces just didn't work with any other pieces. They don't get to play in the next round.

The whistle blows again and the eligible monkeys head back on to the field. The monkeys meet up again, interlock two new pieces, and place the new interlocked piece on the previous interlocked piece they made. Sometimes the 2nd interlocked piece rolls off the 1st one so a "second story" isn't created. Once all the monkeys have interacted with every other monkey, they walk off the field.

The field is now littered with mostly single level interlocks, but a few double level interlocks are out there. Lets say three are left. One of the monkey's pieces fit in two of the double-level interlock structures. One of the monkey's pieces is unusually flat compared to the other monkey's pieces.

The squirrel wonders what will happen in round three. It presumes the monkey(s) who can make the tallest structures win. It nibbles nervously; perhaps its a gambling squirrel and wants to bet some acorns with some less bright squirrels. Which monkey's piece is best adapted for building tall things? One interacts with more than one piece, but the other seems particularily adapted to this purpose. And is the squirrel even sure height is the purpose or is it just coincidentally correlated to the actual purpose?

The squirrel then wonders how tall the structures could get if the monkey played a series of 20 rounds. Its tail bristles and it darts up to a higher limb.


yoyomo said...

Dink sweetie, I think you're gonna have to submit a urine sample for this post. Not everybody tries to solve those math puzzles at the end of SciAm ya know.

Dink said...

I skip over those pages in SciAm as well;)

Speaking of which, one of the major articles in this month's episode was "Phosphorus Famine" or something like that. Inhale. Exhale. Purposely long inhalations and exhalations. Must...control...adrenal gland..

yoyomo said...

I haven't subscribed to SciAm since they ran an article on time travel (that was a leap too far for me) but here's my (not literally mine) doomsday article on Peak Phosphorus.

yoyomo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yoyomo said...

Website for phosphorus reclamation.

Dink said...

Perhaps there's money to be made in urine. A lot of sci fi has hi-tech toilets that analyze urine so you know immediately when those kidneys are doing some weird chemistry. Perhaps now they'll go a step further and harvest precious phosphorus. Like the article said, the element hasn't left the planet which gives us hope. But large scale reclamation from the ocean floor to agricultural centers will be a b$%^&.

yoyomo said...

That is the tragedy of resource dissipation; vulcanism and other natural geological forces in the planet's early history concentrated valuable minerals in rich easily accessible veins but once they have been used and dispersed they might as well have left the planet because they will be impossible to gather back up except at the scale of gold mining where 34 tons of ore must be processed to obtain one once of gold.

Once oil starts to run down, even gold will be impossible to mine. Try to visualize a human crushing and panning through 34 tons of rock; it would take a lifetime if not several.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits