Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!
What could techno rhythms, square-pieces dissections, and windshield wipers have in common?
Say what? The Euclidean Algorithm is all about our good friend long division and is a great way of finding the greatest common factor of two numbers. It relies on the fact that if a number goes into two other numbers evenly, then it also goes into their difference evenly. For example, 5 goes into both 60 and 85–so it also goes into their difference, 25. Breaking up big objects into smaller common pieces is a big idea in mathematics, and the way this plays out with numbers has lots of awesome aural and visual consequences.
Here’s the link that prompted this post: a cool applet where you can create your own unique rhythms by playing different beats against each other. It’s called “Euclidean Rhythms” and was created by Wouter Hisschemöller, a computer and audio programmer from the Netherlands.
(Something that I like about Wouter’s post is that it’s actually a correction to his original posting of his applet. He explains the mistake he made, gives credit to the person who pointed it out to him, and then gives a thorough account of how he fixed it. That’s a really cool and helpful way that he shared his ideas and experiences. Think about that the next time you’re writing up some math!)
For your listening pleasure, here’s a techno piece that Wouter composed (not using his applet, but with clear influences!)
Here’s an applet that demonstrates the geometry of the Euclidean Algorithm. If you make a rectangle with whole-number length sides and continue to chop off the biggest (non-slanty) square that you can, you’ll eventually finish. The smallest square that you’ll chop will be the greatest common factor of the two original numbers. See it in action in the applet for any number pair from 1 to 100, with thanks to Brown mathematics professor Richard Evan Schwartz, who maintains a great website.
One more thing, on an entirely different note: Holyhedron! A polyhedron where every face contains a hole. The story is given briefly here. Pictures and further details can be found on the website of Don Hatch, finder of the smallest known holyhedron. It’s a mathematical discovery less than a decade old–in fact, no one had even asked the question until John Conway did so in the 1990s!
Have a great week! Bon appétit!