This blog is about Simon, a young gifted mathematician and programmer, who had to move from Amsterdam to Antwerp to be able to study at the level that fits his talent, i.e. homeschool. Visit https://simontiger.com
This has been one of Simon’s most ambitious (successful) projects so far and a beautiful grand finale of 2019, also marking his channel reaching 1K subscribers. The project – approximating Euler’s number (e) in a very weird way – is based upon a Putnam exam puzzle that Simon managed to prove:
Simon saw a prototype of this Galton Board in a video about maths toys (it works similarly to a sand timer in a see-through container). He created his digital simulation using p5.js online editor, free for everyone to enjoy:
I’ve been terrible at keeping this blog up to date. One of Simon’s best project in December 2019 was creating a chess robot and I haven’t even shared it here.
We were joking how this is Simon’s baby and her name is Chessy. Simon also made an improved version with a drop-down menu allowing to choose 1 to 5 steps ahead difficulty level (warning: levels 4 and 5 may run quite slowly): https://chess-ai-user-friendly–simontiger.repl.co/
Simon built a simple cellular automaton (rule 22) model for fracture. He read about this model a couple nights before in Stephen Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science” and recreated it from memory.
Stephen Wolfram: “Even though no randomness is inserted from outside, the paths of the cracks that emerge from this model appear to a large extent random. There is some evidence from physical experiments that dislocations around cracks can form patterns that look similar to the grey and white backgrounds above” (p.375).
Simon loves the Maths Is Fun website and has borrowed a couple of ideas for cool games from there. He wrote the code completely on his own, from scratch. Below is a video where he presents his Connect games:
Simon has been enjoying Stephen Wolfram’s huge volume called A New Kind of Scienceand is generally growingly fascinated with Wolfram’s visionary ideas about the computational universe. We have been reading the 1500-page A New Kind of Science every night for several weeks now, Simon voraciously soaking up the behaviour of hundreds of simple programs like cellular automata.
Wolfram’s main message is that, contrary to our intuition, simple rules can result in complex and often seemingly random behaviour and since humanity now has the computer as a tool to study and simulate that behaviour, it could open a beautiful new alternative to the existing models used in science. According to Wolfram, we may soon realise that the mathematical models we are currently using, based on equations and constraints instead of simple rules, are merely a historical artefact. I’m amazed at how much this is in line with Simon’s own tentative thoughts he was sharing with me earlier this year, about how maths will be taken over by computer science and how algorithms are a more powerful tool than equations. When he came up with those ideas he hadn’t discovered Wolfram’s research and philosophy yet, he used to only know Wolfram as the creator of Wolfram Mathematica and the Wolfram language, both of which Simon greatly admires for being so advanced.
Last night, Simon was watching a TED talk Stephen Wolfram gave in 2010 about the possibilities of computing the much aspired theory of everything, but not in the traditional mathematical way. “It’s about the universe!” Simon whispered to me wide-eyed, when I came to the living room to fetch him. “Mom, and you know who was in the audience there? Benoit Mandelbrot!” (Simon knows Mandelbrot died the same year, he is intrigued by the fact that his and Mandelbrot’s lifetimes have actually overlapped by one year).
We have been informed by the World Science Scholars program that Stephen Wolfram will be one of the professors preparing a course for this year’s scholars cohort, so Simon will have the unique experience of taking that course and engaging in a live session with Stephen Wolfram. It is breathtaking, a chance to connect with someone who is much older, renowned and accomplished, and at the same time so like-minded, a soulmate.
Inspired by reading Stephen Wolfram, Simon has revisited the world of cellular automata and Turing machines, and created a few beautiful Langton’s Ants:
Take any real number and call it x. Then plug it into the equation f(x) = 1 + 1/x and keep doing it many times in a row, plugging the result back into the equation.
At some point you will see that you arrive at a value that will become stable and not change anymore. And that value will be… φ, the golden ratio!
But this equation also has another answer, -1/φ. If you plug that value into the equation, it will be the same, too. The real magic happens once you have rounded the -1/φ down (or up), i.e. once what you plug into the equation is no longer exactly -1/φ. What happens is that, if you keep going, you will eventually reach… φ as your answer!