Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Faith in chaos

Last week, Slashdot posted an article about math on The Simpsons and Futurama. A user comment linked to this pdf document containing a copy of the fax from the Simpsons writers asking for the 40,000th digit of Pi from NASA (page 4), which I thought was pretty cool.

That same pdf document also mentioned the Chudnovsky method for computing Pi. I remember reading this article about the Chudnovsky brothers in my dentist's office in 1992. The article describes the brothers as a pair of modern day mad scientists, computing digits of Pi on a homebrew supercomputer in their apartment. (The brothers must have partially inspired the character Max Cohen in the movie "Pi").

What have the Chudnovsky brothers been doing since 1992? The New Yorker has the scoop: they helped create an thread-level digital photograph of The Unicorn Tapestries. There were over 200 CDs of raw data, and the threads twisted and moved as the individual sections were photographed, making stitching the photos together a difficult task. (The article mentions Albrecht Durer'’s engraving “Melencolia I”, which I thought was cool enough for a link.)

According to the article, the brothers are now working with IBM on a supercomputer codenamed "C64." I can't seem to find any information on the C64 online, although that's because I gave up trying to sort out the "Commodore 64 emulator for IBM Compatable computer" bogus hits.


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