How do you eat your candy?

By Julianne Dalcanton | August 14, 2007 7:45 am

My temporary officemate runs down to the vending machine and buys a bag of gummi bears. He dumps them on the desk, sorts them by color, and then procedes to eat them in order of increasing bin size (i.e. the pile of 1 orange one, then the pile of 3 yellow ones, then the pile of 4 green ones, etc).

If I buy a bag of M&M’s, I sort them by color, then figure out a division that lets me arrange them in a triangle, with one color per horizontal row, but allowing colors to be repeated (i.e. it’s ok for 9 red M&M’s to show up as a row of 7, and then further up, a row of 2). I then eat off each diagonal, producing a progressively smaller triangle, but one that maintains the horizontal color structure till the tasty end.

My kids, who I suspect inherited a geek-streak a mile wide, also sort multicolored candy into patterns and make up an algorithm for eating it.

The non-scientists who I have asked about this habit look at me like I’m nuts. (So do people who grew up in large families, because someone was bound to snarf the candy before they could take the time to develop this particular neurosis.)

So, is algorithmic consumption of multicolor candy a geek phenotype?

  • B

    guilty of sorting smarties by color into hexagons with the centerpiece having a different color. if there’s enough one can nicely join several together.

    (that’s despite the fact that I don’t like smarties. I personally think food shouldn’t be colored whatsoever.)

  • B

    PS: proceed to eating them without breaking the symmetry, produces snowflake-like relics.

  • Mike Saelim

    My algorithm involves pulling Skittles one by one out of a bag:

    if (color == purple): eat
    if (color == red): eat
    else: discard

  • M

    When I was little I loved the strings of sherbert beads that you could wear like a necklace, and I’d spend ages trying to figure out which ones to eat so that I could end up with pretty rainbow patterns.

  • Carl

    I tend to sort in increasing order of preference. Those that I like best get eaten last. I have to admit that it extends to any meal. At dinner my meat is almost always the last food on my plate. However, I don’t eat enough candy to have developed a more complex algorithm for a specific type of candy (i.e., triangles M&Ms or hexagons for Smarties).

  • Ben

    Guilty as charged, though maybe not with the geometric patterns. I prefer similar numbers of each, such as 2 or 3 at a time. I make the grouping decision based on a rough LCD, when possible, as long as it’s greater than 1. I then order consumption from least to most desirable flavor.

    Expanding this concept, though… I generally and subconsciously eat french fries in pairs or threes, selected to match length as closely as possible. In other words, I pick out 2-3 fries that are approximately the same length before dipping in ketchup or eating outright. If I can’t find a matching length, I’ll occasionally break one in half to have even lengths, or I’ll simply give up or move on.

    I have other food quirks, too, which I’m not recalling right now. Aligning silverware, glass positioning, etc. Maybe it’s mild OCD. :)

    As for whether or not this is a geek thing… I think it’s definitely so! My wife (non-geek) thinks I’m rather nuts. :) My guess is I get it from my Dad, who is a Math prof and used to record stats on bags of M&Ms before eating them. He did this to use as manipulatives with kids and teachers for elementary math ed instruction (i.e., he generated probabilities over time for colors, then would hand out small packets of M&Ms to the class and take them through predictions based on stats before then letting them open, count, draw conclusions, and then, last but not least, enjoy). :)

  • Count Iblis

    There is a theorem that says that however you eat them, it will still drive inflation. And this is backed up by observations :)

  • John

    I break the colors down into bins, and begin eating from the originally largest bin (B1) until it is the same size as the originally second largest bin (B2). Then I eat alternately from B2 and B1 until they are both the same size as the originally third largest bin (B3), and then I eat from B3, B2, B1 until the three bins are the same size as the originally fourth largest bin, and so on, until there is no candy left.

    I do not eat by flavor or color preference. If I make a mistake and accidentally eat from the wrong bin, I shrug it off and keep on going.

  • Ben

    I find myself sorting my candy into groups of three by like colors. If I am eating a bag of M&Ms, for example, I tend to sort them into three red M&Ms, three blue M&Ms, and so on. This is based on my opinion that three M&Ms is an optimal mouthful-size and that like-colored M&Ms should be eaten together. I know it’s irrational but somehow it’s quite compelling.

  • Theo

    completely guilty of this. It is most assuredly a nerd trait of some sort.

    I think we need to be clear that it’s not just science nerds though. I love science, but I’m much more of an art/literature/philosophy nerd, and that’s reflected in my patterns.

    If the candy is colored, it must be sorted by color and eaten accordingly, but I rarely sort it the same way twice. My mental state and thought patterns affect the patterns I use. I recall recently I organized mini-resee’s cups by color (they were gold and red wrappers), and then laid them out in the tree-of-life/sephiroth pattern. Other times I make circles of each color, or wavy joined-up chains.

    My friend has to eat gummy bears in sets of three of the same color. He even has a specific chew-pattern he uses!

  • PK

    I make groups of five M&Ms in which no two have the same colour (so every group ha s 1 blue, 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 brown M&M). I first eat the excess M&Ms that don’t fit in complete groups, and then the geek-fest starts. Either I eat colour by colour, or I grab whole groups of five. This depends on my mood.

    However, I will now also experiment with some of the techniques presented here.

  • Quasar9

    I sort my Opal fruits by colour,
    and then eat them in twos or threes
    two or three orange, two or three purple, two or three lime green, two or three yellow lemon, or two or three strawberry red…
    But it is totally ‘random’ which colour order I eat them in. Well it’s just the kind of spontaneous guy I am, love order with a bit of chaos thrown in.
    Would I give you my last Opal Fruit? you got more chance of a Rollo

    PS – Careful with the orange ones – they are Vinnie’s favourites

  • Schwa

    I generally eat candies one by one at random. I also occasionally stuff large handfuls of candy into my mouth.

    Candy bars with any kind of regular division (e.g. cookies and creme Hershey bars) is methodically broken bit by bit and consumed as it is disassembled, though.

  • Schwa

    Oh, I forgot to add, I’m a molecular genetics undergrad with delusions of medical school.

  • Alison

    What about idiosyncratic physics acronymns? Has anyone gathered a list of them?

    I was just emailed by a sociaologist who found the term WIMP quite amusing.

    If there’s no other archive of them, perhaps the good folks of Cosmic Variance might gather them here on a slow news day.

  • Jason Dick

    I limit myself to pairing my M&M’s and Skittles. I eat two of each color until there are no more pairs left, placing one on each side of my mouth.

  • Quasar9

    Julianne, do you think the mile-wide geek streak or traits you notice in your kids are ‘inherited’ from you, or from the common gene pool, the mud pool.
    Is it simply your physical closeness to them makes them think they must have inherited these traits, and inherited them from you … would you not think the same if your kids were changelings, had been changed at birth without you knowing.

    The best one is when parents say to their genetic kids “You are no kid of mine” meaning they don’t think or act like their parens might ‘expect’ them too. From shepherds (or carpenters) are born kings, and from princess are born dumbasses. Nature likes to play a joke on Us every now and then it would seem. Knock down the whole sound castle (or tower of bable) and start all over again, maybe build a new sancastle on some far away shore.
    Cosmic Clock on YouTube.

  • Neil B.

    “Geek”? Maybe, but Freud had a phrase for that tendency…
    To be fair, I suggest a slight revision: “analytical retentive.”

  • Julianne

    Julianne, do you think the mile-wide geek streak or traits you notice in your kids are ‘inherited’ from you, or from the common gene pool, the mud pool. Is it simply your physical closeness to them makes them think they must have inherited these traits, and inherited them from you … would you not think the same if your kids were changelings, had been changed at birth without you knowing.

    It’s hard to say. My husband and I seem to have been very different as kids, so we span a broad spectrum of traits. Thus, there probably isn’t a trait in existence that you couldn’t pin on either one of us, making it not terribly restrictive.

    That being said, there are times when you see your kids doing something incredibly distinctive, and verrrrrrrry familiar, that none of the other kids you know seem to do. You can’t help but suspect some underlying predisposition.

  • Yvette

    I just… eat my candy. I feel like such a substandard geek now. :(

    (Though to be honest, I don’t eat much candy. Just chocolate, and that’s not particularly sortable!)

  • Quasar9

    Hi Julianne, I soooo know what you mean
    Most parents tend to think their baby is the cutest too.
    Our childhood is spent developing some common (socio-cultural) traits, and our adolescent years trying to define our own identity or determine our own individual self. Those thing we have in common with family & friends, and those things that make us different from ‘everyone’ else (including parents).
    Generally parents spend more time with ‘their’ kids, therefore really cannot say whether those traits are common or not to other kids. After all those ‘eerie’ moments when we see our parents, sibblings or offspring do something verrrrry familiar, we are sort of closely (and intimately) looking at the closest physical pseudo-mirror images of our inner (and outer) selves.

    It is also a fairly common trait that all mothers (and fathers) and brothers (and sisters) and offspring sense those same ‘eerie’ moments too, though of course they will each identify with some more ‘personal’ mannerism, moment or trait.

  • brad

    wow. that is probably the lamest habit ever! 😛

    (and that’s coming from someone who asked for a quantum field theory textbook for his birthday.)

  • N. Johnson

    I eat my candy just like John (8)! Except that I don’t make mistakes while eating candy. :-)

  • Carl Brannen

    I thought I was alone in having strange candy eating algorithms.

  • stand

    I’m laughing because as I read this, I was eating an orange using an incredibly elaborate ritual that I have developed over many years. I found myself not consciously making the connection as I read and only later, as I was searching for examples of my own candy-eating algorithms did it occur to me that I was actually doing it.

  • Sarah

    I sort by color into as close to round groups as possible, then almost always eat one by one (occasionally two at once, but never of different colors at the same time!) going through the colors trying to keep the ratio of the number of each color about the same. i remember doing this as a little kid when there were still light tan m&m’s – my favorite, and typically the least populous in a bag.

  • Todd

    M&Ms or Smarties – I push two together – I eat the loser (the one that cracks first). The survivor goes on to the next round, against another randomly selected member. The final survivor theoretically gets retained for breeding purposes to create a strain of more robust candy, but in practice gets eaten.

  • Todd

    Just asked my daughter – she carefully eats by rainbows (sets with every colour represented only and only once).

  • Moshe

    Oh great, now I have to worry about the geek streak in my daughter, who definitely sorts and re-sorts her m&m’s (well, smarties) before reluctantly eating them (the reluctance definitely is coming from me).

  • Stephan

    I eat by random walk on the complete graph.

  • marciepooh

    I eat M&Ms in darkest to lightest and except oragne comes after yellow (reverse ROYGBIV). This all got screwed up when they added red back in and then blue and did away with tan. I currently eat brown, green, yellow, orange, red, blue but I am considering putting blue second instead of last. M&Ms are eating two at a time until I get to the oranges and reds (because they were my favorite colors) which are eaten one at a time, sometimes I let them melt in my mouth, sometimes I’m too greedy to wait. Sometimes I can’t wait long enough to eat them this slowly at all. Flavored candies (or flavor-suggested candies like Smarties) are eaten in reverse order of preference. Yellow’s always first to go; I don’t like banana or lemon; after that it depends on the candy. Candy bars are often dismantled in the process of eating (i.e. the chocolate off the outside of a KitKat, then each wafer individually).

    I’ve never even condsidered making shapes with them before eating. I’ll have to try that.

  • JoAnne

    I rip open the bag/wrapper, pick up the candy pieces and put them in my mouth. Usually as fast as I can, although I try to limit myself to one piece at a time to slow the pace down. I had no idea that this was weird. 😉

  • Matt

    I have cognitive dissonance with anything other than binary food states. Food should either be present or not. A half-full bag/plate of anything does not exist in my idealized universe. Hence, I tend to eat quickly to minimize time spent in the imaginary interim state. Any technique to achieve this is acceptable. Taking extra time for sorting or shape making is not.

  • Emily

    When I buy M&Ms I don’t always take them out of the bag and sort them. But I always eat them two at a time (one in the left side of the mouth, one in the right), and make a serious effort to eat matching color pairs – two brown, or two yellow, or whatever.

    When I do empty them out I don’t necessarily move them around but I mentally parse by color, and usually eat the LARGEST color bin first, moving down to the “treat” color that’s the rarest in the bag (in M&Ms this tends to be blue or orange). I also take note of whether I have odd or even amounts of each color and kind of decide ahead of time how I deal with “odd” colors – if I have 7 brown M&Ms, I find another color with an odd # of M&Ms and pair the leftover guys together. Getting an odd # of M&Ms in a bag is troublesome, and is ALWAYS rectified by eating three of the same color at once.

    …oh god I never even thought about the fact that I did this until I read your post. We are frightening creatures…

  • Domenic

    Just because nobody else has posted it yet…

    (As for me, I don’t eat candy.)

  • Ben

    JD – You can’t spell astrocdphysicist without OCD.

    I don’t do anything organized with multicolor candy, which is odd since I have most other eating tics in the book (including eating a single Cadbury bar two squares per day over a period of > two weeks, in grad school).

  • Ann

    I like to eat evenly among colors or food types. I imagine the foods being insulted if they are not eaten quickly enough.

  • Crosius

    The only thing I do with mixtures of candies, or nuts, or other “assortment” snacks is to try and avoid having a large quantity of a single type of item left in the dish at the end. Generally, this results in a motivation to select a representative of the current majority (ie. eat a red smartie if most of the smarties in the dish are red).

    This is a bad strategy for two reasons:
    1. Some of the things in the assortment are things I don’t like. I will eventually have to eat these items, because they will eventually be in the majority.

    2. When someone else is eating from the same assortment, and they have a favourite, I never get to eat their favourite, because I’m trying to “eat down” the populations of the other item types. This is particularly annoying if the other person’s favourite is also my favourite.

  • graviton383

    Depends on the candy..with Jelly Beans it’s a definite
    color ordering BUT for M&M’s I follow the JoAnne method..


    Is it true that sun has solid body and rotates on its axis like th earth?

  • Count Iblis

    Who would have guessed that JoAnne’s table manners are like those ofthis person? :)

  • Dr Who

    “So, is algorithmic consumption of multicolor candy a geek phenotype?”


    A tendency to formulate sentences like that, on the other hand…….

  • miller

    I have a tendency to try to leave roughly equal amounts of each color, in order to preserve variety throughout. But only with skittles, not m&ms, since m&ms of different colors all taste the same. But such a habit is purely practical, not at all neurotic, right?

  • Stephanie

    I sort candy into rainbow order, then proceed as in #8, to make the rainbow as even as possible. The last candy of each color is eaten in rainbow order. I also used to make a game of mixing up colored pencils (markers, whatever) and seeing how many switches between two colors it took me to get them back into a rainbow. I suspect this was the merging of the typical little girl’s love of rainbows with profound geekiness.

    During a particularly stressful finals week in college, my girlfriend and I undertook a study of whether reeses pieces or peanut butter M&Ms were the superior candy – various points were given for taste, shape, texture, ratio of candy shell to interior, etc. I think there were graphs involved. If only I could remember which one won.

  • Brian

    I was about to say: *I’m* a scientist, and I’ve NEVER sorted my candy by color! You are all weirdos!

    All of which may well be true, but I quickly realized my own tic, which seems to be shared by a few other commenters: symmetric chewing. I eat my M&Ms by even numbers, so that I chew evenly on either side of my mouth (except when I let them melt in my mouth, but that doesn’t involve chewing). This extends to nearly all bite-sized foods, in fact. It’s ingrained to the extent that I’ll bite the last M&M in half if there’s an odd number, and to the extent that leaving the dentist hungry but with a half-numb face is utter torture. I totally can’t fathom the tendency to eat by threes that seems common in this thread.

  • Kaleberg

    Is there a candy equivalent to the Chinese remainder theorem? You know, the theorem that states N mod M != 0, where N is the number of Peking ravioli and M is the number of people at the table.

    I can’t even remember the last time I had M&Ms. I do tend to try and break chocolate bars on the lines. My girlfriend doesn’t. She just breaks off pieces which gives me an excuse to eat the subpixels.

  • FailureToLurk

    I figure out which color of M&Ms are fewest, and then eat all the others colors down (in no particular order) to match the number of that color. Then I eat one of each color (again in no particular order) until I am left with only one rainbow set. I then eat them in order of ascending pleasingness of color, saving the best for last. As a child I saved the blue one, these days I keep the green.

    So happy I am not alone in my madness. =)

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    with m&m’s (when i used to be allowed to eat them, i’m not allowed the sugar any more) i’d open the bag, sort them by color, count them, and record the amount of each color in a spread sheet that would give me the totals and average of each color and the pack as a whole. then i usually eat the blue ones first ’cause they taste kinda odd, but usually only when you get a bunch of them at once. then i’d eat the group with the fewest in it, except that i’d save the red and green one for last and usually eat them in pairs (sometimes in threes if there was a lot more of one color than the other) of one red and one green. if i ended up, or ate them in threes, i’d tend to put one on either side of my mouth then bit the third in half so i’d have the same amount of candy on both sides of my mouth. this is important for some reason, though it’s not a deal breaker, just a preference. i’ve stopped eating so may m&m’s, but i still have the spread sheets, i think i know where they are. i had one for plain (aka milk chocolate), one for peanut, and one for peanutbutter m&m’s. crispy m&m’s are just wrong and odd tasting and dark m&m’s came out after, or just before my body’s sugar issues.


    oh, i forgot to mention that i sort the groups roygbiv fashion and the spreadsheet as well. browns are last ’cause that is what you get if you mix non-photon colors together.

  • geraint

    Nope – not at all. Grab a handful, get multicoloured stains on the draft proposal, mumble at the students spitting multicoloured smartie chips (no real scientist eats m&ms) while mumbling “noooo weeeree crifofel syfols are like fiss, not fat…”

  • Jordan

    Yes, absolutely. With me it’s M&Ms, and I sort them in order of increasing “bin size” and then use each color in order to create a spaceship pattern and then eat the spaceship, propulsion system first.

    I wrote my college entrance essay on this minor neurosis and apparently they liked it.

  • Elliot

    I used to sort M&Ms as a child but “outgrew” it. I think it was when the tan ones went away. They were my favorites. I definitely used to sort TRIX. I’d eat them Yellow then Orange then Red. (decreasing frequency, increasing flavor)

    My children apparently did not inherit so it must be a recessive trait.


  • citrine

    I don’t sort candy by color but I did refer to the M&M color coding in an Astrophysical context.

    When I was a Physics grad student, our dept had a pretty restrictive food budget for seminars. The few times a Nobelist was the featured speaker, we served catered food on fine china. If it was a senior faculty member, we had cut up fruit and veggies and a cheese platter. In the case of a junior faculty member or grad student, store bought cookies were served. I happened to mention this eminence dependent gradation of food quality to another grad student. He misheard the word “eminence” as M&M s. That made me come up with an M&M s scale corresponding to the stellar colors. I notice that there are blue, yellow, orange, red and brown M&M s. After that I think of M&M s in terms of stellar colors.

  • Jonathan Vos Post

    What was the logic behind Van Halen’s “brown M&M” contract rider?

    One of the more intriguing, but often overlooked trivial tidbits of the music industry is the concert tour contract rider, a fancy legal term for all the conditions that must be satisfied before a musical act will actually put on a scheduled show. From these documents spring nearly all the infamous stories of prima-donna rock stars complaining that their dressing rooms fail to provide obscure or highly specific items—such as Jennifer Lopez’s white drapes or Joe Cocker’s thrice-chilled beer.

    Failure to provide a specified item will often prompt the talent to throw a show-canceling tantrum. Of course, contract riders didn’t start out as exercises in vanity.

    We can largely attribute the practice of using contract riders to control backstage conditions to The Beatles, the first touring act with enough drawing power to cajole venue managers into complying with a few hospitality demands, such as refreshments and basic amenities. For example, the Fab Four purportedly requested only a black-and-white television set and a few Coca-Colas after their famous Shea Stadium concert—hardly unreasonable demands.

    The Rolling Stones, no strangers to the rock-and-roll touring circuit, have employed several-dozen-page contract riders, with exacting specifications for the serving of gourmet food after the show. In response, renowned concert promoter Bill Graham allegedly served Mick Jagger and company nothing more than hot dogs. (No word on any tantrums that followed.)

    Perhaps the most infamous contract rider, however, belongs to 1980s rock heavyweights Van Halen, which specified that a bowl of M&M candies be available in their dressing room—with all the brown M&Ms removed. One-time Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth has admitted to trashing a dressing room or two after finding brown M&Ms in his candy bowl, but he claims there was a higher logic—and a sound engineering reason—behind this oblique request.


    What was the supposed logic behind rock band Van Halen’s indulgent contract rider that required the removal of all brown M&Ms—and only brown—from the candy bowls in members’ dressing rooms?

    The “brown M&M” line in Van Halen’s contract rider was a ploy the band used to determine whether concert venue promoters and managers had actually read every line of the contract. Specifically, one article of the rider read, “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

    While this may seem like an extravagant method of gauging a promoter’s attention, the band had good reason to go to such trouble. Van Halen was among the first musical groups to take a massive and elaborate stage and lighting apparatus on tour, yet still play so-called secondary and tertiary venues, such as college amphitheatres.

    In many cases, the buildings the band was booked to play in simply weren’t able to handle the structural demands of the traveling stage. The band’s lengthy contract rider clearly spelled out the specifications and safety requirements for the stage, but many of the smaller venue administrators simply didn’t bother to delve into this intimidating legal document.

    Thus, if Van Halen got to the dressing room and found brown M&Ms in the candy dishes, the band knew that a problem might exist with the stage. In many cases, the problem was worth canceling the show, for safety or liability reasons. From such cancellations sprang the rumor that Van Halen would back out of a concert date simply because the band found brown M&Ms backstage.

    In fact, this reputation grew so well known that at one point The Rolling Stones, which was headlining a tour that included Van Halen, wrote into its own contract rider a request for all the brown M&Ms that Van Halen threw out. It’s ironic, considering that the brown M&Ms were merely a red herring, but such is the basis for great Geek Trivia.

  • dave tweed

    You can tell no-one here is a computer scientist. If it wasn’t for watching other people eat sweets I wouldn’t even know they had different colours! (The bag gets opened and then a practised hand reaches in by touch whilst I watch the screen.)

    No seriously, I suspect CS people probably have the worst diabetes/blood pressure health because of all the eating without actually looking at what it is.

  • Quasar9

    lol Jonathan Von Post,
    Keith Richards must have heard something about Van Halen and Brown Sugar – so he said: Yeah man, lets try some

  • lenore

    My approach depends upon the initial distribution of colors:

    (1) if there are roughly equal numbers of each color, and more colors than representatives of each color (e.g. M&Ms, with many colors but maybe only 3 of each), I sort them into equal-size, single-color groups and rapidly eat any culls. Then eat one from each group (to keep the groups close to equal) until all gone. Order in which each color is eaten on each pass is random or based on flavor preference, and may change from one pass to the next. Sometimes this necessitates throwing one entire color category in with the remainders group to keep things neat (e.g. three or more of everything except only one yellow, the yellow gets culled along with the “or mores”.)

    (2) If there are roughly equal numbers of each color, but fewer colors than representatives of each color (e.g. holiday Kisses, with 3 colors but several of each), I sort them into groups containing one of each color, eat any culls, then pick up one group at a time and eat its candies one by one.

    (3) If the number of candies of each color lends itself better to a triangular sort (typical of M&Ms), I go with Julianne’s method, except that I never seem to have enough candy in my hand at once to have more than one row of a color, so I again eat the culls first. I’m going to try allowing more than one (non-adjacent) row of a color and see how it goes; I can’t believe it never occurred to me before.

    (4) If there’s only one or two of each color (e.g. mixed jellie bellies) they usually go roygbiv.

    This isn’t limited to candy; celery sticks, carrot sticks and mushrooms from the cut-veges plate at the A&S New Faculty reception work just as well. Also mixed nuts except then you have to decide whether to make allowances for the larger nuts (like 1 Brazil nut = 2 pecans = 3 peanuts).

    If there’s an assortment of cookies I like to do kind of a “tower of Hanoi” kind of strategy.

    I always always break chocolate along the lines and I’m always annoyed when a break goes wonky. Sometimes I end up eating more chocolate than I want at one time because of having to neaten up the bar before putting it away.

  • Elliot

    I hope the mental health “police” aren’t reviewing this thread.


  • Risa

    All I know is, the power of suggestion is amazing. I just went and bought some M&Ms, and didn’t even realized until afterwards that it was because of checking the page. But I still wish they would get rid of the blue and bring back the tan of my youth.

  • Elliot


    Ditto on the tan. I swear they tasted better. Kind of a mocha thing. I always saved them for last.


  • alex

    I eat M&M’s and skittles, if i have a bunch in my hand, so that there are equal amounts of each color group, which i then eat in order of preference. as for smarties, theres not enough difference among colors to justify treatment, but given a good surface will arrange them into patterns and stacks.

    as for chocolates like kit-kats and peanut butter cups, does anyone else carefully nibble off the chocolate edges and tops before consuming the rest?

  • Tyler

    And I was thinking I was neurotic. Compared to many of you folks I’m normal! 😉

    All I do is eat groups of two to three with all different colors in the group – usually this requires including one of the most plentiful colors in all servings.

    Unfortunately, I can’t do this while driving…

  • even prime cents in

    What strikes me about all of this is the unresolved tension between Classicism and Romanticism. These rituals would seem entirely abstract, but if they were truly not invested with personal meaning, why bother? Implicitly shared or even universal meaning? Shades of Pythagoras and Religion. M&Ms at communion…

  • Julianne

    These rituals would seem entirely abstract, but if they were truly not invested with personal meaning, why bother?

    An action can be deeply satisfying without having meaning. Making patterns with my M&Ms gives me that satisfaction, but not because it interacts with any higher intellectual process. I just like patterns.

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  • MountainLaurel

    I am so glad that I’m not the only one with these patterns! I use the methods of 34 and 45 above, except that I try to eat the candies by threes but alternate chewing on either side of my mouth.

  • Kaleberg

    When Donald Michie, the artificial intelligence pioneer, died last month, his obituary noted that he built a machine that learned to play tictactoe out of 300 matchboxes representing the various configurations. Each matchbox started with a set of colored beads indicated a possible move. When the machine lost, the bad beads were discarded; when it own, the good beads were retained.

    When I was in elementary school, some children’s science magazine had a simplified version of this computer. They started the game a bit down the tree. I remember making up little boxes, each with a tictactoe configuration on it, and. as directed, putting in the appropriate colored M&Ms each indicating a possible move. Training the machine was great. When you won, you got to eat the M&Ms. Eventually, the machine learned how to beat you, and that was for M&Ms.

    I had forgotten this gadget until recently reading Michie’s obituary. That may be most complex algorithm for eating M&Ms that I’ve come across, and as a side effect a game playing algorithm was optimized!

  • Jonathan Vos Post

    This matchbox gadget is also the key plot point of one of the Berserker stories by Fred Saberhagen (I forget the title). The human pilot, his mind slowed to a crawl by a weapon, has his pet/partner monkey play a simplified version of checkers against a planet-destroying life-hating robot space ship.

    It is a kind of Turing machine issue, whether Man can beat AI by simply appearing immune to stupidity rays, the fate of humankind hanging in the balance.

    Martin Gardner’s fascinating article on Michie’s invention appears in “The Colossal Book of Mathematics: Classic Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Problems,” and is called “A Matchbox Game-Learning Machine.”

    It may be worth noting that, with programmable computers being widely available, the “matchbox” model described in Gardner’s article can be readily expanded to more complicated games. In other chapters of Gardner’s “Colossal Book,” he discusses several other non-trivial games that may lend themselves to the “matchbox” model.

    Michie accidently took credit for a Human versus Machine chess theorem I’d invented in grad school (early 1970s) and published in SIGART. Accidently, because my theorem was transmitted to him via an International master with whom I played in Amherst, who then went to U Edinburgh as Chess advisor to Michie, but failed to pass on my contact information. Basically, I proved that if you KNOW that you’re playing against a machine that makes errors, your BEST move is not necessarily the optimal move that you would play against a machine that played “perfect” chess (which would take more matchboxes than the cosmos can probably hold).

    To fill in some details: In Chess, however, I stated a
    theorem, and gave examples, early in my CS grad
    student days at UMass/Amherst, 1973-1977. I showed it to our resident International Master, Danny Kopec, who then went to be Chess Advisor to the AI programme at University of Edinburgh. SIGART had the Edinburgh professor.

    I gave examples (horizon effect was shown in SIGART)
    and classified situations with 1 error per game
    players, 2 errors per game players, and suggested a
    generalization with distributions.

    Michie, sad to say, recently died in a tragic way. “Professor Donald Michie, 84, and his ex-wife, Dame Anne McLaren, 80, were in a car which left the motorway as they travelled from Cambridge to London. Prof Michie was a researcher in artificial intelligence who worked as part of the British code-breaking group at Bletchley Park during World War II.”

    I iterate that I am not accusing the late prof. Michie of plagiarism; it was probably accidental on his part, because perhaps Danny Kopec did not have the right contact information for me. At the time, I was writing the world’s first PhD dissertation on Nanotechnology and Artificial Life, neither of which fields were yet

  • serial catowner

    You would think there would be more candies made in interlocking shapes…….


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