Optical Illusions and McNugget Numbers

1. Optical Illusions
2. New Year Giveaway
3. Horrendous Space Kablooie in the USA
4. Fix for the CD-ROM
5. Shop Partly Closing Down & Free CD-ROM Download
6. Competition Winner
7. Puzzle Competition

1. Optical Illusions

There’s no better way to start the New Year than by staring at optical illusions. It really makes you appreciate the flawed genius otherwise known as your brain. The page below is a brilliant collection of illusions, pointed out to me by Professor Richard Wiseman, author of ‘The Luck Factor’ and ‘Where’s the Gorilla?’. Enjoy … http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/index.html
(If you have problems accessing the illusion web pages, then just download the Flash plug-in at the bottom of the web page.)

And if your hunger for illusions is still not satiated, then pay a visit to … http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~moraes/illusion.html

2. New Year Giveaway

In an effort to clear out my shelves for the year ahead, I am keen to give away the following translations of Fermat’s Last Theorem:
L’Ultimo Teorema di Fermat (Italian) – 2 copies
El enigma de Fermat (Spanish) – 5 copies
Le Dernier Theoreme de Fermat (French) – 1 copy
Fermats Letzter Satz (German) – 1 copy
Fermat’s Last Theorem (Hebrew) – 1 copy

If you would like one, then just email me at freebook@simonsingh.net putting the title in the subject of your email and your address in the body. The books will be sent on a first come, first served basis.

3. Horrendous Space Kablooie in the USA

Because I have been talking about my new book (Big Bang) in my last three newsletters, I thought I might use the Calvin & Hobbes term for this theory of cosmic creation instead of the more familiar phrase … just to break the tedium.

There is not much to report, except that the book will be published in the US this week, and I will be touring throughout the States in January and February. Details of my US lectures are now available at: https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.html

Translations of Big Bang will appear during the course of 2005. The Italian edition is already out, and I was shocked to learn that the Italian for Big Bang is Big Bang: https://www.simonsingh.net/Big_Bang_Reviews.html

4. Fix for the CD-ROM

The recent Windows XP patch seems to have caused problems for a small minority of people using the CD-ROM version of ‘The Code Book’. If you are still encountering problems, then the solution is described at: https://www.simonsingh.net/The_CDROM_XP_Fix.html

5. Shop partly closing down & free CD-ROM download

In contrast to every other shop in the world, I am going to be taking the simonsingh.net shop off-line, inasmuch as it will no longer be possible to order by credit card. If you live in the UK, then you can still order signed books and CD-ROMs by cheque and post, and details of how to do this remain on the site. However, if you live overseas, then you will have to obtain books from local shops made of bricks or other online shops. https://www.simonsingh.net/Simons_Shop.html

The good news is that the interactive CD-ROM version of ‘The Code Book’ is now downloadable for free. Having distributed 25,000 copies over the last three years, it is great to see that this resource can be made even more widely available. The download takes approximately 3 hours via broadband – details available at: https://www.simonsingh.net/Code_Book_Download.html

6. Competition Winner

Last month I asked: “Why do mathematicians get Christmas (Dec 25) confused with Halloween (Oct 31)?” The answer is that 25 in decimal (Dec) is equal to 31 in octal (Oct). 2 x 10 + 5 = 3 x 8 + 1

The first entry out of the hat and winner of ‘The Music of The Primes’ by Marcus du Sautoy was Jon Bolmstedt from Sweden.

7. Puzzle Competition

Certain numbers have a special property. For example, 1729 is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways: 1729 = 12 cubed + 1 cubed = 10 cubed + 9 cubed.

An interesting story about 1729 can be found at: http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Ramanujan.html

The special number in the puzzle is the so-called McNuggets number. Before going any further, I should stress that this puzzle is neither an endorsement of fast food in general nor McDonalds in particular. A future newsletter will contain a healthy salad based puzzle.

From the standard menu, McNuggets come in 6’s, 9’s and 20’s (we ignore the Happy Meals because you get fries, a drink and a toy) and pound menu (which is new) where they come in 4’s. The McNugget number is the largest number of McNuggets that you cannot order at McDonalds from their standard menu. What is the McNugget number?

Email the answer and your address to puzzle@simonsingh.net and one of the correct entries will win a copy of the brilliant “How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World” by Francis Wheen. (Thanks to James Blowey at Durham University for introducing me to the McNuggets number.)

Best Wishes for 2005,



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