Thursday, December 26, 2002

xmas math

Guess what? Christmas also offers seasonal support for learning math ... the cool way. Case in point: the familar song (parodied to death in a recent South Park: The Twelve Days of Christmas. A little conundrum is finding out how much economic recession you'd end up in if you took the song literally and became the "true love" in the song. Simply put: how many gifts would you end up buying? To be very precise: how many gifts in all, regardless of type. So, you can assume that each turtle dove has a unique identifier (sponsored by Oracle, Microsoft or some other large corporate entity worried about security), and so on. This rising cost of generosity puzzle has its answer in an old mathematical oddity called Pascal's Triangle. Construct such a triangle upto 15 rows. Now locate the Triangular Numbers. These lie in the diagonal starting at row 3. Grab twelve of them. This should bring you down to row 14. Now go to the next number (should be 91, if you did everything correctly). Move a column to the left. That's your answer: 364. Basically, in human terms, a present for each day of the year. And just as God took a break, you can take one too (or two, if this is a leap year). A strong mathematical foundation for a lovable carol. Science backing tradition. {more}

nostalgia flash :Another connection to this carol can be found in the archives of the International Obfuscated C Code Contest. I remember the first time I heard about it, one of the problems everyone relished was a winner from 1998 {see: phillipps}. The output, was our favourite carol. Quite an achievement. Reverse engineering it aka breaking it down for human readability has been a pleasure for people {read: could be interpreted as a geeky activity, but to each his/her own}

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