Tuesday, July 7, 2009

sixlets, candy for nerds

Not even nerds themselves are better suited for nerds than sixlets, which I recently rediscovered (apparently they still sell them in the middle of the country. And now I'm so addicted I'll have to order them on the internet from Berkeley.)

You know how people, maybe predominately nerdy people, develop habitual algorithms for eating m&ms, like my favorite: eat the most common color until there's the same amount as the second most common color, then alternate between those until there's a three-way tie, etc, until you end up with a mouthful of one of each?

Sixlets (which are incidentally an objectively better version of the candy-coated-chocolate idea than M&Ms, and should be called eightlets, since they come in little packets of eight) open up a whole new realm of potential nerdy eating habits. Optimize eating one from each end of the line of eight to maximize the variety of colors left at any point? In ones or twos or fours? So that all the brown ones are gone before the most possible other colors?

Then start in the category of compulsive mental calculations. Since all the colors seem to be mixed together randomly and put in groups of eight randomly, it's a great random number generator. What's the probability of not having one of each of the five colors in a pack? What's the probability of getting equal numbers of each color? What's the probability of getting a rainbow? Are any of these overrepresented in your bag of 8-packs? What's the p-value?? Is the sixlets company conspiratorially allocating sixlets in groups of 8 only pseudorandomly? Can you backwards engineer the selection process from observing various distributions of events?

I've never spent so much time mulling over candy packaging.