Monthly Archives: February 2007

Choosing up sides

A while ago I wrote about the playground ritual of choosing teams for a ball game. The simplest algorithm has two captains, A and B, who take turns choosing players until everyone is assigned to one team or the other. … Continue reading

Posted in games, mathematics | 12 Comments

Working on the railroad

The March-April issue of American Scientist is now available on the Web; paper copies should be on their way soon. My column is about hump yards and turnouts and wyes—in other words, about algorithms for railroad workers. “Computing with locomotives … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, problems and puzzles, science | 2 Comments

Postage due

There was a line at the Post Office window, so I went to the self-service counter, plopped my letter on the scale, and found that it weighed a whisker under two ounces. I bought stamps from the machine and stuck … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, modern life | 7 Comments

The stepchild

A new jeremiad foretelling the doom of computer science as an academic discipline has just been published by the British Computer Society. It’s by Neil McBride, principal lecturer in the School of Computing, De Montfort University, Leicester. Some of what … Continue reading

Posted in computing | 5 Comments

The land surveyor’s algorithm

Here’s an algorithm for finding the area of any simple polygon. First, assign an orientation to every edge by drawing an arrowhead pointing in the counterclockwise direction around the cycle of edges. After this labeling, each vertex of the polygon … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics | 4 Comments