Happy Stu Day! Some Fun Stuff for the Third Day of Christmas

Present-counting, fake monoliths, fractals, and music!

I said I was going to share leftover links/stories for Boxing Day, but I lied. Okay, not exactly – I was down for the count.

Today is Stu’s birthday, the man behind the blog (he did write an entry, once.) Say howdy, Stu!

So in lieu of the usual content, I’m only posting “fun” stuff. And you know what I find fun.

Quantifying the Twelve Days of Christmas

Yup, I’m all about counting. Not always about counting dead people (will be getting back to that soon enough), sometimes I count presents!

Twelve Days of Presents – I did this one about 12 years ago.

Three years ago, I looked into the cost of the 12 days of Christmas. Here’s a graph:

You may be interested to know that the costliest component of the 12 Days of Christmas is the swans. They’ve been about 50% of the total cost in the most recent decade. Here’s the underlying spreadsheet.

The mysterious monoliths continue… in gingerbread form

You may have heard about the various structures being dubbed monoliths (mind you, they’re not monoliths as they’re not single stones, but then the Washington Monument is also not an obelisk for the same reason. It’s merely obelisk-shaped. Here, have a book on obelisks. It’s pretty cool.) being found in various places.

First, one had been found in a Utah desert. Somebody checked via google earth – it had been there since 2016.

Then it disappeared. (People removed it because it was causing damage to the surrounding environment.)

A similar one appeared in Romania. I didn’t check to see if that one disappeared.

A third one showed up on a California mountain. This one got destroyed by anti-space alien folks.

And now, a gingerbread version showed up in San FranciscoAnd then the giant cookie crumbled. I could have told them that would happen. Gingerbread is not known for its structural integrity.

Obligatory: Stuart by the Dead Milkmen

Given the anti-space alien folks, I am giving you:

Stuart by the Dead Milkmen

Stu hates this song (because people used to sing it at him), so nobody tell him I posted it. (no, he doesn’t read the blog)

I am allowed to yell “BECAUSE IT LIVES IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND!” at Stu about once every 5 years.

Spreadsheet fractals

I’ve been trying to see how many of the Advent of Code 2020 challenges I can do in spreadsheets, eschewing even VBA (if I have to use VBA, I may as well use a real coding language, like python). I haven’t had a lot of time to work on it, but I’ve gotten 21 out of 50 stars so far.

It looks like it’s a sweet tribute to John Conway, a famous mathematician who died from COVID this year. Some of the challenges reference his famous Game of Life, but I’m sure many others are also related. I saw Conway lecture several times when I was staff at Mathcamp, but I never had time to write down what he taught! This is the sum total of my writing on Conway, from August 1999:

I forgot to put up the stuff that Conway was talking about — Doomsdays, rivers & lakes, mental arithmetic, games with surreal numbers (sum of games).

Sum of games was a pretty nifty idea.

In any case, Conway’s type of math – “recreational” – is a great way to get people engaged with real math, as opposed to school math. Yes, school math is real, but it’s more about preparing to be an accountant (or an actuary) than being a mathematician. That’s fine – there are far more accountants than mathematicians out there.

Conway’s Game of Life is a cellular automaton (there’s a crochet pattern in there for a Sierpinski fractal shawl), and many 2-D fractals can be built that way…. which means one can do it with a spreadsheet.

The simplest way involved a single “seed” row and a single formula copied throughout the rest of the spreadsheet. You can download that spreadsheet here, but I recommend not extending that formula too far. Even though it’s a single formula, and a very simple one at that, evidently it can be a bit much for the computer.

Two years ago, I did it a little less crazily, using Linear Iterated Function Systems and RAND.

don’t like RAND for serious use, but this is not a serious use.

Have a fractal snowflake created in the spreadsheet:

Enjoy the rest of Christmas!

In many ways, Christmas is the most compressed of important observances in the Catholic calendar – you get only 12 days of Christmas, while we have 4 weeks of Advent, 40 days of Lent, and 50 days of Easter (though Easter getting the most days makes sense, since it is the most important of the Christian holidays.)

Trying to compress all the good Christmas music into 12 days leads to over-stuffed services. And we have so much more good Christmas music than Easter music. What’s up with that?!

But at least some of us have 12 days of Christmas. Only one day of Christ’s Mass is just not enough.

Have my Christmas play list (note: not all the songs are actually Christmas songs, and many are just secular winter songs.)

So I’m signing off with my favorite Christmas rock song: Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade.

Enjoy the remaining 9 days!