Andy's Math/CS page

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Wordplay

Call a word 'orderly' if its letters are in alphabetical or reverse-alphabetical order. Consecutive appearances of the same letter is OK.

-Find a famous mathematician whose name is orderly.

-Now find a complexity theorist.

-How long an orderly word can you find?

-Have any other challenges for the rest of us? A CS research problem related to orderliness?

In a different but still-wordy vein, Free Rice is a fun site, where you donate rice to the UN by testing your vocabulary. The words get impressively obscure as you score more correct (multiple-choice) guesses, much more so than, e.g. the also-recommended Word of the Day page, and once you're arguing with friends about what 'carronade' means it's a good bet that you're not fighting poverty in the most effective way possible, but I still recommend it. What this quiz underscores for me is how much verbal knowledge we hold at the very edge of awareness and competence. (Hat tip to Chaya for the link.)



  • I cheated and wrote a program to find the longest orderly words. I won't spoil the answers here, except that:

    - There's a Wikipedia entry for one of the two words I found, which notes that it's "the longest English word where the letters are alphabetically ordered".

    - The other solution I found is equally long but reverse alphabetical.

    By Anonymous D. Eppstein, at 7:04 PM  

  • Cool! I'm suitably curious... but I can abide.

    By Anonymous Andy, at 9:04 PM  

  • By Blogger Arvind, at 1:17 AM  

  • i know i'm being facetious here, but Chinese last names make the task a lot simpler: li, yi, etc.

    By Anonymous samuel jackson, at 2:24 PM  

  • "Abel" and "Gill" are the best I can do so far, but I'm pretty sure those aren't optimal...

    By Blogger Cheshire Cat, at 5:53 PM  

  • Well done, CC. Abel was my first answer (and how strangely appropriate...), but I've got a different complexity theorist in mind. No comment on name-length, but you've almost certainly heard of this person.

    Thanks for the link, Arvind! I haven't followed it because I'm afraod that it'll spoil Prof. Eppstein's challenge... does it?

    By Anonymous Andy, at 7:16 PM  

  • Chor? Ben-Or? Hoory?

    By Blogger Cheshire Cat, at 7:36 PM  

  • (James) Abello? (though he's really an algorithmist)

    By Blogger Cheshire Cat, at 7:55 PM  

  • You've blown me out of the water already (Abello, wow...), but you're still missing my name. This researcher is reverse-alpha order, and proved one of the classic results of complexity theory.

    By Anonymous Andy, at 8:03 PM  

  • That'll teach me to read the problem statement more carefully. I didn't take reverse-alpha into account at all; it gives rise to some interesting possibilities (Poon (here the letters are truly consecutive), Toda (the name you were thinking of?), Ron)...

    BTW, thanks for the "Free Rice" link - it's the most wonderful, and also the most evil web site I've ever seen. Not only does it promise to be a lifelong addiction, but one can't even feel guilty about it...

    By Blogger Cheshire Cat, at 8:36 PM  

  • Thanks, Cheshire, for increasing the self-knowledge of the TCS community... yes, Toda was my answer.

    Glad you like Free Rice. I've started to notice a few repeats, but hopefully their vocab supply is large and/or expanding enough to keep it fun.

    By Anonymous Andy, at 8:43 PM  

  • P.S. I can see people are enjoying this post, so I will try to deliver more like it.

    By Anonymous Andy, at 8:46 PM  

  • Yes, both the words I found are in arvind's link. That link also lists longer but more contrived examples.

    By Anonymous D. Eppstein, at 12:07 AM  

  • Hey! Coach Factory Online simply wanted to say your website is one of the nicely laid out, most inspirational I have come across in quite a while.

    By Anonymous Coach Factory Online, at 2:48 AM  

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