Fun With Numbers

I am a fan of the website Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. They are not the most frequent to update, but more often than not, those new posts are interesting. I always look forward, however, to their monthly “Linkdumps.” One of these caught my eye this month and I wanted to share it. They linked to a couple of Wikipedia articles about two numbers specifically: 6174 and 1729.

6174
This one is really cool. First, you take any four-digit number that contains at least two different digits (ex. NOT 3333). Next, you make two separate numbers from the digits: one in ascending order, the other in descending (being sure to add buffer zeros if needed). Subtract the smaller number from the larger and repeat with that new number. The cool part is that, in at most seven steps, the number will always converge to 6174. And 6174 continues to repeat itself.

So, an example for you all. We’ll start with the number 7439:
9743 – 3479 = 6264
6642 – 2466 = 4176
7641 – 1467 = 6174!!

The number 495 does the same thing with three-digit numbers.

1729
1729 is interesting because it is the smallest number that can be expressed by adding two positive cubes in two different ways.
1729 = 13 + 123 = 93 + 103
That’s amazing to me considering I’m always taught in my computer science classes about how fast cubes grow.

They also linked to an article about a theory that all numbers are interesting. It’s worth a quick glance, but they prove it by contradiction. If you have a set of numbers said to be “uninteresting,” the fact that there will be a smallest number in that set makes it unique compared to the other numbers and therefore interesting.

And that’s why numbers aren’t trivial, surely among other reasons.

Enough with the Bing Commercials Already!

I have a big problem with these new Microsoft Bing TV ads. They are inaccurate for any sane person who happens to be searching the web. In case you haven’t seen them, or just need a refresher, the three I’m talking about are here, here, and here.

Now that you’ve seen them, a few results I found from searching to see if their wild tangents are true (I used Google for all of these searches):

  • Searching “breakfast” resulted in NO mentions of the Breakfast Club through 10 pages.
  • Searching “back pain” resulted in NO pages about “back packing,” “back to school,” or Bach through 10 pages (If you’re getting results about Bach from back pain, you’re doing something seriously wrong.).
  • You CANNOT get results for “bird of paradise” from “two tickets to paradise” through, you guessed it, 10 pages (Are you seeing a trend here? My feeling is that if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the first 10 pages, you’re not searching well enough).
  • NO mention of “cell wall” from searching “cell phone.”
  • Searching “tickets to hawaii” will get NO results for “hawaii five-o” through 10.
  • I could go on, but I don’t think I need to.

    If you’re wanting to compare LCD and Plasma TVs, you don’t just search for “plasma.” Are people really this dumb?! Do people expect to get reasonable results from vague searches?

    I have to be honest when I say I don’t know how fully well Bing works because I’ve only dabbled in a couple searches. I’m sure that it is a very capable search engine. And it never hurts to have an alternative, if for nothing else than the chance at different results.

    Bottom Line: Don’t try to tell the world that Bing is the perfect search engine when others give perfectly relevant results if you actually know what you’re looking for.