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.

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 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.

    Technology’s Place in our Lives

    Our beloved electronics, where would we be without them? I’ll be the first to tell you that I would go crazy if I didn’t have all of my gadgets around me at all times. That doesn’t mean that I cannot go without them for periods of time. This had been known to happen, but if I had to live the rest of my life without my phone, computer, tv, or various other electronics, I don’t know what I would do.

    I recall the big ice storm a couple years ago here in Springfield, MO. I was one of the lucky ones that did not lose power at all, but I went ten days without television or internet access. I watched about a third of my movies, read, listened to music, and even worked on this really cool Puzz 3D Millenium Falcon puzzle. Even so, I was bored out of my mind for most of that time. Has technology really destroyed our ability to entertain ourselves?

    Now, I can’t badmouth technology too much, considering I am basing my entire college career in the field of computer science. I don’t want to give up my gadgets, but I do think that they can negatively impact our lives at times.

    My first example has to do with cell phones. Most people, including myself, take their cell phones with them everywhere. That doesn’t mean it should or has to be answered in all situations. All too often people don’t know proper etiquette of where and when to answer the phone, disturbing everyone around them (e.g., store check-out lines and and movie theatres).

    On a side note with phones, if any of you have experienced phantom rings, you know how annoying they can be. For those who don’t know what a phantom ring is, it is when you think you hear your phone ring or hear/feel your phone vibrate when it actually doesn’t. It hasn’t happened much to me since I switched to the T-mobile G1, but when I had my Blackberry, it would happen at least once a day. It became very distracting.

    My second example deals with print media. We all know that online news has been taking the front seat to the newspaper and I have to say that this makes me sad. I know that it is inevitable, but I am not looking forward to the day that the only way I can get my news is from the internet. I like newspapers for one main reason: format. I like being able to look at full articles all at once. The stories are easy to find and you know you are getting that day’s news. When looking online, the date of the stories are almost never labelled on the front page and you can’t get a snippet of the story without clicking to read the full story. When I read the newspaper, I first scan the headlines to see if the story is one I want to read and even if I don’t want to read the whole story, I usually like to scan the first couple paragraphs to get the main points. So, for intsant, breaking or non-traditional(i.e., from blogs)  news, the internet is a modern wonder. But I would much rather read a newspaper everyday.

    And what happens when you lose your internet connection when that’s the only source? No news. Period.

    Along the same line, Amazon’s Kindle is an amazing piece of technology, but I don’t want to use it as my primary source for reading. I like the feel of a book in my hands. On top of that, I spend so much time in front a computer screen, I don’t think it would be healthy for my eyes to look at another screen for an extended period of time.

    We can’t deny that technology and electronics have become cornerstones in our lives that are not going away, but we can’t solely rely on them. Think of the episode of South Park from this season where the entire world goes insane because the internet is down. We must have other ways in which we can entertain ourselves so that we do not become dependent. Those are just a couple examples, but nevertheless, if someone tries to take away all of my gadgets, I’ll have to quote Charlton Heston when I say, “from my cold, dead hands.”

    Star Wars v. Star Trek

    This is the pinnacle of all nerd debates; which science fiction franchise is better? This goes into personal favourites and also discussions on who would win in a head-to-head battle.

    CAUTION: This could get nerdy from time to time from here on out.

    This debate is nothing new, but seeing as the new Star Trek film is coming out in a little more than a week, I figure it’s a good time to let everyone know where I stand on the matter.

    Star Wars has my vote hands down.

    That’s not to say I don’t like Star Trek. I love The Next Generation, enjoy most of the Original Series episodes I’ve seen, and like most of the movies. I also can’t wait to see the new Star Trek movie when it comes out on the 8th. From everything I’ve heard and from the trailers, this movie is going to be awesome.

    But still, I just like Star Wars better.

    The technology in Star Trek is like nothing ever seen before it. Who wouldn’t want to be able to transport themselves or and object instantly across huge distances? Who wouldn’t want to be able to replicate anything they want? And then there’s the holodeck. If this could be built in our time, it would be the pièce de résistance of all known entertainment.

    On the other hand, Star Trek has the disadvantage of weak ships. How cool is it when your shields are down to 60% after one phaser blast? It’s almost embarrasing when you have this advanced society that can make just about anything, but can’t adequately protect themselves.

    Star Trek may have the fancy, albeit cool, technology, Star Wars has the best weapons and firepower. Death Star, blaster, lightsaber, bowcaster — Star Wars has everything you could ever want to destroy anything.

    I think the well-defined plot is what sets ‘Wars aside from ‘Trek for the most part. ‘Wars has the advantage of all the episodes being feature length, but are also tied together. With the majority of ‘Trek’s content being from the various series, there is only so much you can do with an hour when the episodes aren’t tied together by plot. The exception to that, however, are the ‘Trek movies.

    I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks the Enterprise could take on and survive an attack from a Star Destroyer is crazy. All of the specifications around point to the Star Destroyer being about one kilometer longer than Enterprise (which is only about or a little more than 600m in the first place). Size advantage pretty much seals it for me, but the Star Destroyer also has a large complement of fighters. In my opinion, those fighters are going to be too small and fast for the Enterprise to be able to consistantly and accurately hit them.

    These are just a few of the things that set these two storied sci-fi franchises apart. Like I said before, most of the allegiances betweent the two are based soley on opinion. Mine still stands by Star Wars.

    You’ve heard how I feel, which side do you sway towards (if any)?

    Facebook: What’s the Point?

    Raise your hand if you have a Facebook. That’s silly… everyone has one. To be honest, most of the time I don’t even know why I still have it.

    I was first introduced to the service in the fall of 2005. It was my freshman year of college and we had a contest on our floor. We join this website and the person with the most friends from our floor of the dorm would get a 2-liter of soda and some candy. I ended up winning the contest, but didn’t know who any of the people I became “friends” with were; nor did I care about finding out. That should have been my hint.

    Since that time, I now have a little over 200 friends, of those I could probably count on my two hands the ones that I am in contact with regularly. And of those, I can and do interract with most, if not all, in other ways.

    And therein lies the question: What’s the point?

    The only reasons I can come up with are the “what-ifs.” What if I really need to get a hold of a certain person? What if I completely lose track and just want to say “Hi”?

    Other than that, I don’t really know. It’s probably just the person I am and an anomaly compared to the masses.

    What are your thoughts?

    Thoughts About Sound

    I started reading “Tell No One” by Harlan Coben last night (it was adapted into a great French movie by the way), and I came across this paragraph in chapter one that really got to me:

    “But I remembered how the laugh and the howl and the splash would ripple and echo in the stillness of our lake, and I wondered if ripples and echoes like those ever fully die away, if somewhere in the woods my father’s joyful yelps still bounced quietly off the trees. Silly thought, but there you go.”

    It was only the first chapter, but it stuck in my brain deep enough that I had to stop reading after I finished the chapter.

    Now, I know that it is kind of a silly thought knowing that sounds do in fact dissipate, but what if conditions are ideal. What if you make a sound in a perfect room that does not absorb any of it; will the sound keep going forever? The sound will bounce off the walls, but what will happen next?

    Will it bounce back as the same sound that bounced in?
    Does it just expand enough that it’s so faint that we can’t hear, but still exists?

    No matter how cool I think it would be if every sound ever made was still floating around somewhere, in one way or another, up in the sky, I think it could be possible if conditions are perfect.

    First, sound is a wave, but it also emanates in every direction from the source. So, the sound is expanding in every direction and therefore losing intensity just by being emitted.

    Next comes the point when the sound is reflected. Now, we are assuming that the room is ideal and the wall will not absorb any of it. I believe that there is a least one example that could keep the sound alive. This is shown in my brilliant picture below.

    Sound Diagram

    Imagine that the circle is actually a sphere with all the “sound” lines coming from every point except from the point of attachment. When it hits the wall is where things get tricky. If the wave hits at the crest (top of the wave) or trough (bottom), it should bounce back directly to the source and then back and forth forever (in my mind) as long as the source is of ideal material.

    Now, if the wave hits the wall when it’s at some other point in between the crest or trough, it will bounce in any number of directions. That’s when the sound wave gets diffused by contact of various wave pieces going in those different directions and therefore the wave is eventually destroyed.

    From my example, it all depends on the relation of the distance of the wall from the source and the frequency of the sound wave. Conditions have to be extremely ideal, so I would say that even with ideal material, it is unlikely for the sound to continue. And even though this could never happen for real, the nerd in me enjoyed thinking about this problem.

    I would love to hear what everyone thinks about my theory or what your theories might be.