Category Archives: Combinatorics

Q: Is it possible to write a big number using a small number? Is there a limit to how much information can be compressed?

Physicist: Although there are tricks that work in very specific circumstances, in general when you “encode” any string of digits using fewer digits, you lose some information.  That means that when you want to reverse the operation and “decode” what … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Combinatorics, Computer Science, Entropy/Information, Math | 8 Comments

Q: How can I set up a random gift exchange that’s different from year to year?

The original question was: I’ve got a large family and we do a yearly gift exchange one person to one person. And I’d like to make a algorithm or something to do random selection without repeating for some time. And … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Combinatorics, Experiments, Math | 2 Comments

Q: How many samples do you need to take to know how big a set is?

The Original Question Was: I have machine … and when I press a button, it shows me one object that it selects randomly. There are enough objects that simply pressing the button until I no longer see new objects is … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Combinatorics, Math, Probability | 4 Comments

Q: Are some number patterns more or less likely? Are some betting schemes better than others?

Physicist: First, don’t gamble unless you can be sure you won’t get caught cheating or you enjoy losing money. Games of chance come in two flavors: “completely random” and “not quite completely random”.  It’s not always obvious which is which, … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Combinatorics, Entropy/Information, Math, Probability | 9 Comments

Q: What fair dice can be simulated by adding up other dice?

The original question was: The five platonic solids (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron) are often used in games to make 4, 6,8,12, and 20-sided dice respectively. However, if you renumber the dice using nonnegative whole numbers you can create … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Brain Teaser, Combinatorics, Logic, Math, Probability | 10 Comments

The nuptial effect

Every day, on average, 2-3 physicists get married.  On Saturday I’ll be attempting to push that average to as high as 3-4. So (for our regular readers), there’ll be a longer gap between posts than usual.  The future Mrs. Physicist … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Combinatorics, Evolution | 23 Comments