## Le Monde puzzle [#848]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , on December 28, 2013 by xi'an

The X’mas version of Le Monde mathematical puzzles:

A shop sells X’mas trees (with 25 models which prices range from 36€ to 65), X’mas fairy lights (with 18 models which prices range from 6.50 to 27), and X’mas balls (with 13 models which prices range from 9 to 17.50). A lot is made of a model from each group. Is it possible to set the prices so that all different lots have different total prices ? Differences are expressed in cents.

It would be straightforward to set an R code picking 25x18x13=5850 prices at random until all sums are different or a maximal number of trials is reached… but the maximal number of values for the total prices is

100x(65.01-36)+100x(25-6.49)+100x(17.51-9)=5803

so this proves impossible to satisfy. No wonder the title of the puzzle is “A X’mas gift”! (The most interesting entry in this issue of the Science leaflet is an impressive photo of an amputated hand grafted on a leg by Chinese surgeons while waiting for the damaged arm to recover. Maybe too impressive at X’mas dinner time…)

## thumbleweed news [short story poll]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2013 by xi'an

Although I alas received only three submissions (#a, #b, and #c), following my call for thumb-related short stories, I may as well go and have a poll (for two weeks) as to which one was most appreciated by ‘Og’s readers… (I just noticed you cannot put links within the poll answers, most annoyingly!)

## thumbleweed news [short story #c]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by xi'an

Following the previous thumbleweed news, here is a third short story, called #c for the time being. There are a few days left for those who want to contribute to this series!

X woke up with a terrible hang over. Thinking of last night performance, he was proud himself. He is an equilibrist and has been lucky enough to perform at the biggest collaborative circus show in France. He has never seen so many talented and attractive people performing together and this is what he has been dreaming about.

X was about to get a cup of water and noticed that his right thumb was gone and, wrapped. ‘This must be a horrible dream.’ he thought. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. He tried to remember what happened but all he could remember were some brief moments. After the show, there was a big party to celebrate the last performance. He had a great time till Tim started a fight again. Tim (a lion tamer) was always jealous of X’s talent. Tim got aggressive and threatened X with his lions. ‘His lion took my thumb?’ X got so furious at Tim then, he remembered the moment with Bella. Bella has been working on a hand disappearing magic. Yes, he was drunken enough to volunteer himself for her working magic. She brought an axe to pretend cut his hand. ‘So… my thumb got cut for real?’ He should’ve took Jimmy’s advice, ‘Never volunteer yourself to working magic.’ Last night Jimmy was too busy impressing Liz who was very popular and snobby. X was keen on Liz’s friend, Cloe, secretively. One moment, all of them were sitting at the same table and Liz whispered X that Cloe fascinated a snake show very much. Luckily (?) a group of Indian magicians was sitting at the next table. Yes, he remembered reaching out himself to those snakes for one simple purpose.

‘My thumb must be beaten and poisoned?’

He got confused with these slices of memory and none of them gave him clear reason why he lost his thumb. He got out of his room and found Jimmy and Kev.

Both looked at X worried. “How are you feeling? We were so afraid that we might lose you. You’ve been in a bed for four days.” Jimmy said. The most surprising question was asked by Kev, “So, what happened, X? How did you end up in the 5th district?” When a milkman found X next morning in the 5th district, his thumb was brutally smashed and even his bone. When he was brought to a surgeon, there was no other option except cutting his thumb. They talked to everyone and tried to find any clue. No one seems to know exactly what happened that night rather most of them couldn’t remember.

After that, X, Jimmy and Kev traveled around countryside and performed together. After a year and half, that night seemed to be almost forgotten till one morning X read a small article. It was about the new invention of a punch press machine and there was a photo of an inventor, Cloe, smiling beautifully. One of feature caught his eyes, ‘Warning : The maximum pressure is enough to crush human hand.‘

## thumbleweed news [short story #a]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2013 by xi'an

If you read the previous thumbleweed news, you may remember me launching a short story competition on the theme of losing a thumb. I already received a short story, called #a for the time being, that I find quite funny. (And before you start asking question, the author is not Dutch!) Here it is:

Xi’an sat impatiently while the pilot double-checked his harness. He understood the need for safety, but he was eager to begin his first trip into space. His mission was to debug the quantum computer aboard the International Space Station, and to reset it in the unlikely event that it went mad and tried to kill the crew. He anticipated that he would have plenty of time on his hands to work on the ninth edition of his treatise on solutions to multi-dimensional Sudoku. Finally the pilot, Lottie Yeager, gave him the “thumbs up” sign and began preparations for takeoff. Seated on the opposite side of the capsule was the only other passenger, Yevgeny Chekhov, a gifted young evolutionary biologist. It would also be Yevgeny’s first spaceflight. He had been nominated by his research group to conduct experiments with fruit flies in the multi-purpose laboratory module. Xi’an thought that the countdown would never end, but at last the prolonged waiting was supplanted by several intense minutes of sturm und drang. As they passed the Kármán line the nose fairing was jettisoned and the spacecraft rotated towards the horizon to pick up speed. Through the small viewport, Xi’an glimpsed the Earth from space for the first time.

It would still be several hours until their rendezvous with the ISS and space sickness was beginning to kick in. They were able to remove their helmets and gloves and get out of their seats. Xi’an moved towards the viewport for a closer look, while Yevgeny made his way gingerly to the cargo compartment in the rear.

Xi’an was still gazing, transfixed, into space when he heard Lottie shouting. He glanced back to see Yevgeny standing at the hatch with what looked like a pistol in his hand. “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded,” Yevgeny said, just before a loud bang was followed by a high-pitched whistling noise. Xi’an saw that there was now a small hole in the side of the spacecraft, mere centimetres from his head. He grabbed his glove and attempted to block the hole before it vented all of their air into space. Somehow his thumb got sucked into the hole, which caused him excruciating pain.

He had little memory of what happened next, but afterwards he was told that Lottie had confiscated the weapon and ordered Yevgeny to resume his seat. The young scientist apologized profusely. The gun had been his grandfather’s. He had smuggled it aboard amongst his scientific equipment as a memento of home. He hadn’t meant any harm, although it was clear that he had come very close to killing them all.

Lottie was able to patch the hole in the ship, but Xi’an’s thumb had to be amputated in the process. Venting all of that air had put them way off course. However, ground control had received the telemetry data and were able to recalculate a flight path so that they could still make their rendezvous.

Yevgeny would be put on the next flight back to Earth, where he would have to account for his actions. Xi’an would still be able to complete his mission, even though he was now one digit short.

## thumbleweed [local] news

Posted in Kids, University life with tags , , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by xi'an

A few more weeks have gone since the last thumbleweed post. The wound on the thumb is now completely healed. I am having physiotherapy to untighten the hand muscles and I have seen a prosthesist  a few days ago, towards getting back some of the thumb abilities.  Once again, most sincere thanks to all of you who still keep sending me greetings and good  wishes. Thanks too to the complete unknowns, from the supermarket cashier helping with filling my bag to another cashier giving me a box of chocolates as a sign of support, despite my protests, and to other acts of kindness.

In the meanwhile, weird accounts on how I lost my thumb came back to me, the most glorifying one taking place in the Himalayas… So following the suggestion of friends in Dauphine, I am now launching a short story competition on the theme of losing a thumb. Send me your story and I will post it (provided it can be posted!), towards the selection of the best short story by the ‘Og readers. Deadline is mid-September  and the maximum length is 5000 words. There is no prize, by the way!