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Mathematical travel Jan 05

You have to be pretty undecided about your destination for this to be very satisfying, but people of a mathematical bent might find this kind of travel interesting, too.

You need a way to get around. Depending on your scope, this could be a good pair of walking shoes (or a wheelchair), a bike, a motorcycle, or a car. And you need a coin.

Start anywhere. Go to an intersection. Flip the coin. Heads you go right, tails you go left. Proceed to the next intersection. Repeat. You’ll go zig-zagging all over the place. Probably.

This, in mathematical circles, is called a drunkard’s walk—a series of random changes of direction. One interesting feature of a drunkard’s walk is that at some point you have to end up where you started (if you don’t, you will have gone somewhere, which by definition is not a random trip). The trick, of course is how long it might take to end up where you started.

This sort of thing is good for exploring new territory, where it doesn’t matter where you go—it’s all new. You could use it for a walking tour of a large citywith a nice grid system to its streets (such as Minneapolis) . Or rural Iowa if you’re in a car.

Give it a try. Let us know how you fare, but don’t get drunk.

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