Persi Diaconis in the news.

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Robert Allen
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Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby Robert Allen » December 13th, 2003, 11:27 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/14/scien ... TH.html?hp

Diaconis comments on the apparent solving of Archimedes problem, The Stomachion.

A partial excerpt:

Among all of Archimedes' works, the Stomachion has attracted the least attention, ignored or dismissed as unimportant or unintelligible. Only a tiny fragment of the introduction survived, and as far as anyone could tell, it seemed to be about an ancient children's puzzle also known as the Stomachion that involved putting strips of paper together in different ways to make different shapes. It made no sense for a man of Archimedes' stature to care about such a game. As a result, Dr. Netz said, "people said, `We don't know what it is about.' "

In fact, he has concluded, the prevailing wisdom was based on a misinterpretation. Archimedes was not trying to piece together strips of paper into different shapes; he was trying to see how many ways the 14 irregular strips could be put together to make a square.

The answer 17,152 required a careful and systematic counting of all possibilities. "It was hard," said Dr. Persi Diaconis, a Stanford statistician who worked on it along with a colleague, Dr. Susan Holmes, who is also his wife, and a second husband-and-wife team of combinatorial mathematicians, Dr. Ronald Graham and Dr. Fan Chung from the University of California, San Diego.

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John Smetana
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Re: Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby John Smetana » December 14th, 2003, 8:23 am

Wow...isn't that impressive...wonder who funded that study..

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John Smetana

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Stefan Nilsson
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Re: Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby Stefan Nilsson » December 14th, 2003, 12:35 pm

Originally posted by John Smetana:
Wow...isn't that impressive...wonder who funded that study..
Most mathematicians would have serious trouble getting funding if laypeople understood their research. However, mathematicans are much better than magicians at keeping their secrets. I'm able to reveal this since I switched careers from math to magic. ;)

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Re: Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby Guest » December 15th, 2003, 12:46 pm

Thanks for the link Robert; I'm uncertain if John Smetana was being sarcastic or sincere, but I found the article fascinating and probably wouldn't have run across it without your head's up.

--Randy Campbell

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Re: Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby Guest » December 15th, 2003, 2:43 pm

link: Stomachion basics

The Stomachion challenge:

Send the pieces of the Stomachion to a friend in a package with a separate sealed envelope; tell him to contact you when he has solved the puzzle (i.e., constructed the square). Arrive at his door after his call and instruct him to open the envelope. Inside is a facsimile of his solution...

Heck, we pretend 1-in-52 is a miracle; let's see someone manage 1-in-17152 ;)

cheers, Doug

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Re: Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby Guest » December 16th, 2003, 11:16 am

Doug:

I couldn't get your link to work so perhaps that is why I miss the joke/reference, but I read the solution as 17,152 possible solutions, not one.

--Randy Campbell

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Re: Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby Guest » December 16th, 2003, 1:42 pm

You've almost got it, Randy. The idea is that the envelope contains a prediction of one out of the 17152 solutions. Doug's joke is that card guys have been known to predict the identity of a card (one in 52.) A stomachion prediction would be much more impressive.

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: Persi Diaconis in the news.

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 16th, 2003, 5:05 pm

Originally posted by Robert Allen:
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/14/scien ... TH.html?hp

Diaconis comments on the apparent solving of Archimedes problem, The Stomachion.
...

For those who do not have a NYTimes online account, here is a brief intro to the object of inquiry

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Stomachion.html
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time


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