One of my childhood memories is the legend behind the creation of chess. The creator presented his finished game to the king and the king was so pleased that he told the creator to name any price for his work. In response, the creator stated that he wanted one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, then have it subsequently doubled for each square thereafter. The king laughed and said, “Is that all?”

The king didn’t realize the power of exponents. Considering the first square had one grain of rice, the remaining squares had 2 to the 63rd power of rice. My calculator tells me this is 9.22e18, which is a 9 followed by 18 digits, or over 9 quintillion (a billion billion) grains of rice. Most likely the king could not pay off.

Marketers believe “word of mouth” is the most powerful form of advertising. Indeed, more customers have come to my business XMission based on recommendations of friends and family than any other method. Political campaigns want to use this but it is not anything you can purchase, so they mainly rely on traditional methods of advertising through broadcast and print media.

Traditional media is still part of this campaign’s strategy, but it hinges on significant funds being raised. When I encounter a willing volunteer, instead of shaking them down, I tell them to sign up for the mailing list and spread the word. The numbers are pretty simple in this race. In 2004, just over 940,000 voters participated. This was a presidential and a gubernatorial year in Utah where turnout is high. In the “mid-term”, 2002, about 570,000 voters cast their vote. So lets say 700,000 show up in 2006. This means a winner would need a maximum of 350,001 votes. A stark figure until you think of the chess board.

Tell two people a day about this campaign, and have them do the same. In 19 days, 524,288 people will have heard about it. Of course we realize that people are busy, so expecting this to happen is not realistic. However, make up the gaps by increasing the number of people you tell, and the potential is vast.

Some prominent technology websites have refused to greenlight articles about this campaign. National technologists have not responded to my emails. Cracking national media from the top is futile. The word needs to rise from the bottom. Politicians talk about the “grass roots” ad nauseam, but this is what the Internet does best. In order for this campaign to succeed, we not only need votes from inside Utah, we need funds from across the country. Send an email to your friends. Put a button on your web page. Spread the word.

5 thoughts on “Mathematics

  1. Hello Pete, I live in Southern Utah in a somewhat liberal (on Utah’s terms)enclave called Kayenta (Ivins, Ut). When are you heading down this way, we would enjoy hearing you speak either at a formal meeting or just a informal gathering. You are more than welcome at our home, afterall I am married to an old family friend, Eve Stromquist.
    Below is my latest letter to the editor of the tribune.

    Don’t Worry

    I hear such a commotion about our leaders lost values system; pre-emptive war on false premises, government supported torture, rendition, secret prisons, spying on our own citizens and taking from the poor to give to the rich. I say forget about it, that was 2005, a non-election year.

    That’s right folks, 2006 is an election year, which means the Republicans return to “Family Values”. Prior to November you will see the agenda development, so watch out you gays, pro-choicers and other immoral factions, it’s that time again, who will it be this year.

    It is that great period when we all come together, forget our torturous misdeeds, and George W. thinking spying on us is ok, forget Cheney fighting for the right to torture, forget Frist and his inside trading, forget DeLay and his corrupt ways, forget Cunningham’s greed, forget FEMA, and go after same sex marriage, bad mouth the French and vilify Hollywood, since that is what is really important. And Senator Buttar, he can hardly wait to wrap his bigotry in a American Flag, it’s like Halloween for the ignorant.

    Sure “Family Values” issues fall off the agenda about the second week of November, but hey, nothing lasts forever, enjoy the façade, and remember 2008 will be another big year and we all enjoy a good con job.

    Roy Blackburn
    Ivins Utah

  2. Pete:

    Your story is a bit incorrect. You write:

    “The king didn’t realize the power of exponents. Considering the first square had one grain of rice, the remaining squares had 2 to the 63rd power of rice.”

    In fact, the first square had 1 == 2^0 grains of rice, the second square had 2 == 2^1 grains of rice, the third square had 4 == 2^2 grains of rice, …, and the sixty-fourth square had 2^63 grains of rice. So, all 64 squares had a total of (2^64 – 1) grains of rice, and hence “the remaining squares” had (2^64 – 2) grains of rice — almost twice your claim!

  3. Hello, Pete and a Happy New Year. Found you in a reference published today by Slashdot that pointed out how you were using blogging and wiki-like technology to reach out to the voters in Utah. I work with Democrats here in Princeton, Nj and have put up a number of websites that allow members of the community to read position/opinion blogs and comment. It has not yet taken off at the local level, so I’ll be interested in seeing how you do.

    As for you story about the discovery of chess, George Gamow in his book “One Two Three…Infinity” early in his discussion of Big Numbers, tells it a bit differently. According to Professor Gamow, the recipient of the invention was King Shirham of India and the inventor was Sissa Ben Dahir, his Grand Vizier. The grand vizier is reported to have asked for wheat to be placed on the chess board (not rice) and the result of the geometric progression that satisfies Sissa Ben Dahir’s request is 1 + 2 + 2*2 + 2*2*2…and so on until 2^63 is reached. The total comes out to be 18,446,744,073,709,551,615, a 1 followed by 19 digits! A slightly different number than you report, but who’s to quibble over a few billion billions! The way things are headed under the Republicans, this will approach the national debt while wages tumble, fat cats get tax breaks and Abramoff ferries congressman and senators to vacations abroad, where the real money will be.

    Good Luck!

  4. Hey Pete,

    It’s nice to see somebody with a technology background challenging Senator Hatch. I realize you went to the U and all, but I’m sure there are groups down here at the Y that would love to hear you speak anyway ;-). Perhaps you can work something out–I for one would be sure to attend!

  5. YESSSS! thanks you so much for posting this… had a task at school to find out the answer of this… thank GOD for internet 😀

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