In school I was reasonably good at math, I can’t say that it was my favorite subject, I hated them all with varying levels of vehemence.

For example I could see no good reason to learn Latin, it hasn’t been spoken for centuries. Unless you were planning on becoming Pope, it seemed a waste of time! Geography and History seemed to merely be a few squiggly lines and dates on a map. These disciplines left me cold. History very much is recorded by the victors of whatever conflict you look at. It is an Orwellian activity. The same goes for Geography, lines are drawn on the map not for accuracy, but it stays in lock step with todays version of history.

Math on the other hand is merely a series of conundrums that may have a finite solution. I am fascinated with Pie, I like Savory over sweet… oops I meant to say Pi. It is a simple idea, given the length of a line you can calculate the size of a circle that would have the line as it’s diameter. Pi however is a tricky beast, The longer and harder you compute it, the more elusive it becomes. The exact value of Pi is pretty much irrelevant, it won’t change the size of a 12 inch fry pan. But it is still an interesting unsolved problem.

I also have an interest in Prime Numbers and Fibonacci sequences. Outside of the hallowed halls of the dark arts of Cryptology these two math issues have little interest, but they are fun to play with.

Langton’s Ant is a whole different beast. It is perfect for the computer world we live in. It has mathematicians in a quandary. The rules to the game are simple. Pick a grid size, (I would go with at least 100×100, but 1000×1000 is better).

Place your Ant on any square and let it rip! The ant follows some simple rules. At the beginning of the game all squares are white, as he moves each square he lands on turns black. OK that is not the whole story:

At a white square, turn 90° right, flip the color of the square, move forward one unit
At a black square, turn 90° left, flip the color of the square, move forward one unit

After about 10,000 moves something remarkable happens, it does not matter which square you start the and on, the result is always the same.

Well maybe that is explainable. It’s just Math. Yes I hear you, so even more fun is to add a second or even third Ant. You get some strange results. With two ants they sometimes obliterate themselves, and with three ants you see a shift of power with every few moves.

Try it, you might like it.

Simon Barrett

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