This article is from the Puzzles FAQ, by Chris Cole chris@questrel.questrel.com and Matthew Daly mwdaly@pobox.com with numerous contributions by others.

1, 1 1, 2 1, 1 2 1 1, ...

What is the pattern and asymptotics of this series?

series/series.07.s

Each line is derived from the last by the transformation (for example)

... z z z x x y y y ... ->

... 3 z 2 x 3 y ...

John Horton Conway analyzed this in "The Weird and Wonderful Chemistry

of Audioactive Decay" (T M Cover & B Gopinath (eds) OPEN PROBLEMS IN

COMMUNICATION AND COMPUTATION, Springer-Verlag (1987)). You can also

find his most complete FRACTRAN paper in this collection.

First, he points out that under this sequence, you frequently get

adjacent subsequences XY which cannot influence each other in any

future derivation of the sequence rule. The smallest such are

called "atoms" or "elements". As Conway claims to have proved,

there are 92 atoms which show up eventually in every sequence, no

matter what the starting value (besides <> and <22>), and always in

the same non-zero limiting proportions.

Conway named them after some other list of 92 atoms. As a puzzle,

see if you can recreate the list from the following, in decreasing

atomic number:

U Pa Th Ac Ra Fr Rn Ho.AT Po Bi Pm.PB Tl Hg Au Pt Ir Os Re Ge.Ca.W Ta

HF.Pa.H.Ca.W Lu Yb Tm ER.Ca.Co HO.Pm Dy Tb Ho.GD EU.Ca.Co Sm PM.Ca.Zn

Nd Pr Ce LA.H.Ca.Co Ba Cs Xe I Ho.TE Eu.Ca.SB Pm.SN In Cd Ag Pd Rh

Ho.RU Eu.Ca.TC Mo Nb Er.ZR Y.H.Ca.Tc SR.U Rb Kr Br Se As GE.Na Ho.GA

Eu.Ca.Ac.H.Ca.ZN Cu Ni Zn.CO Fe Mn CR.Si V Ti Sc Ho.Pa.H.CA.Co K Ar

Cl S P Ho.SI Al Mg Pm.NA Ne F O N C B Be Ge.Ca.LI He Hf.Pa.H.Ca.Li

Uranium is 3, Protactinium is 13, etc. Rn => Ho.AT means the following:

Radon forms a string that consists of two atoms, Holmium on the left,

and Astatine on the right. I capitalize the symbol for At to remind

you that Astatine, and not Holmium, is one less than Radon in atomic

number. As a check, against you or me making a mistake, Hf is 111xx,

Nd is 111xxx, In and Ni are 111xxxxx, K is 111x, and H is 22.

Next see if you can at least prove that any atom other than Hydrogen,

eventually (and always thereafter) forms strings containing all 92 atoms.

The grand Conway theorem here is that every string eventually forms (within

a universal time limit) strings containing all the 92 atoms in certain

specific non-zero limiting proportions, and that digits N greater than 3

are eventually restricted to one of two atomic patterns (ie, abc...N and

def...N for some {1,2,3} sequences abc... and def...), which Conway calls

isotopes of Np and Pu. (For N=2, these are He and Li), and that these

transuranic atoms have a zero limiting proportion.

The longest lived exotic element is Methuselum (2233322211N) which takes

about 25 applications to reduce to the periodic table.

-Matthew P Wiener (weemba@libra.wistar.upenn.edu)

Conway gives many results on the ultimate behavior of strings under

this transformation: for example, taking the sequence derived from 1

(or any other string except 2 2), the limit of the ratio of length of

the (n+1)th term to the length of the nth term as n->infinity is a

fixed constant, namely

1.30357726903429639125709911215255189073070250465940...

This number is from Ilan Vardi, "Computational Recreations in Mathematica",

Addison Wesley 1991, page 13.

Another sequence that is related but not nearly as interesting is:

1, 11, 21, 1112, 3112, 211213, 312213, 212223, 114213, 31121314, 41122314,

31221324, 21322314,

and 21322314 generates itself, so we have a cycle.

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