## The Langton’s Ant

###### By Anupum Pant

Think of a cell sized ant sitting on a huge grid of such white cells. The thing to note about this ant is that it follows a certain sets of simple rules. The main rule is that when the ant exits a cell, it inverts the colour of the cell it just left. Besides that:

1. If the ant enters a white square, it turns left.
2. If it enters a black square, it turns right.

Here’s what happens if the ant starts out in the middle and moves to the cell on the right, as a starting step (this can be on any side).

Now as this continues, a seemingly random figure starts taking shape. The black cells are in total chaos, there seems to be no specific order to how they appear on the canvas. (of course the pattern is always the same chaos, considering the ant starts on a blank array of cells).

And yet, after about 10,000 steps are completed by the turing ant, it starts creating a very orderly highway kind of figure on the canvas. It enters an endless loop consisting of 104 steps which keeps repeating for ever and creates a long highway kind of structure.

Suppose, initially you take a configuration of black spots on a canvas (not a blank white canvas). Take an array of cells with randomly arranged black spots, for instance. If given enough time, the ant ultimately always ends up making the looped highway. However, before it starts doing it, it might take a significant amount of steps less, or more, than the ~10,000 steps it took to reach the loop in a blank array of cells.

No exception has ever been found. A computer scientist Chris Langton discovered this in the year 1986.

## 10 Fancy Units of Measurement

###### by Anupum Pant

There exist a few unusual units of measurement which you must have never heard of, or would have never thought of them as units until now. Here is a list of 10 of the many fancy units of measurement.

Note: These units are not official. They’re often used for their humor value or for simplicity’s sake):

1. Car length – It is not a very unusual unit of measurement and is used normally to mention the braking distance of a vehicle. Deriving its length from a typical car’s length, 4 meters is referred as one “car length”. You must have heard one spy advising another spy to keep a 2 car length distance from a vehicle to avoid detection.

2. Nanoacres – A measure of area which is equal to about 4 sq.mm (4.0468564224 sq.mm exactly). It is the area of a single VLSI chip which is square in shape and measures 2 mm on each side. This unit is widely popular as a joke among electronic engineers – who often are known to make quips about VLSI nanoacres having costs in the same range as real acres.

3. Grave – It is a unit that measures mass and equals 1 kilogram or 1000 grams. Grave was set to be the standard unit of mass for the metric system, but it was replaced by kilogram in 1799. [read more about it]

4. Moment – Moment is actually something that was used to measure 90 seconds during the Medieval times. But for modern times, the Hebrew calendar’s definition of moment makes more sense. According to it, a moment is equal to 5/114 of a second or around 0.0438  seconds. [read more]

5. Jiffy – Jiffy is used popularly as an informal time in English. Think of someone saying “I’ll be back in a jiffy”. But, we’ve never thought of it as a unit. Also, every field has a different definition of Jiffy.

• Early usage – 33.35 picoseconds or the time take by light to travel 1 cm.
• Electronics – 1/50th or 1/60th of a second, depending on the AC power supply frequency.
• Computing – Typically anything between 1 millisecond to 10 millisecond. Commonly: 10 ms.
• Animation – The time interval between each frame of a dot GIF file or 1/100th of a second or 10 ms.
• Physics/Chemistry – Time taken by light to travel 1 Fermi or 3X10^-24 seconds.

6. Dog Year – Based on a popular myth that dog’s age can be calculated in human years by multiplying it with 7. So, a single Dog year comes to around 52 days (365/7 – Days in a human year divided by 7)

7. A Bible – Used as measure of digital data volumes. It is like measuring the size of a disk in number of movies it can fit which I used in this article. A single Bible in uncompressed 8-bits, has around 4.5 million characters and 150 of them can be stored in a single CD. Hence, a bible can be measured to be approximately equal to 4.67 Megabytes. Similarly,  Encyclopedia Britannica and Library of Congress are used to represent much larger data volumes.

8.  Kardashian – Yes, it is named after the 72 day marriage of  Kim Kardashian to Kris Humphries. Of course, it measures 72 days of marriage. So, a 25 year marriage would amount to around 126.7 Kardashians.

9. Wheaton – Used to measure the number of twitter followers relative to the popular celebrity Will Wheaton. This became a standard when he had 0.5 million Twitter followers. Today, Will Wheaton himself has 4.88 Wheatons. I, for instance, with 210 followers, have about 0.00042 Wheatons.

10. Warhol – Derived from the widely used expression coined by Andy Warhol – “15 minutes of fame” – 1 Warhol measures exactly what you’d expect it to – 15 minutes of fame. Yes, it measures the amount of fame.
Consequently, 1 kilowarhol is equal to 15,000 minutes of fame or 10.42 days and 1 megawarhol measures 15 million minutes of fame or about 28.5 years.