Chutes and Ladders Infinite Loop

I play Chutes and Ladders with my kids sometimes. It isn’t a game of skill. Many months ago I was involved in a game that went on and on and on. As soon as someone would get close to the end he or she would land on a chute and be shunted nearly back to start.

I was left wondering just how long a game would last. So this week my son and I implemented a simulator in Python to calculate how long any one person’s game would last. Each person’s play is independent in Chutes and Ladders, the characters do not interact. Therefore, simulating an entire game is almost as easy as simulating a single player’s experience.

First, the board is 100 cells long and the spinner gives you a value between 1 and 6, just like rolling a die. A fair die will have an average roll of 3.5, so on average it would take about 100/3.5 = 28.6 turns to finish a game if there were no chutes or ladders. The histogram of game length without chutes and ladders is below. The longest plausible game is about 35 turns in this scenario and the average is 28.6 turns, estimated from 10,000 random trials.


The addition of chutes and ladders stretches the histogram radically. Instead of the longest single-person game being about 35 turns, it is now over 200 turns. Fortunately, a 200-turn game is not very likely. Surprisingly the average is not a hundred million years. At 30.8 turns the average game with chutes and ladders is only a little longer than the average game without.


Pretty cool.

import random 
import pylab as plt
import numpy as np
d = {}
for i in range(1, 101):
    d[i] = i

cl = {1: 38,
     4: 14,
     9: 31,
     16: 6,
     21: 42,
     28: 84,
     36: 44,
     48: 26,
     49: 11,
     51: 67,
     56: 53,
     62: 19,
     64: 60,
     71: 91,
     80: 100,
     87: 24,
     93: 73,
     95: 75,
     98: 78}
numturnsa = []
for t in range(10000):
    numturns = 0
    pos = 0

    while True:
        numturns += 1
        pos += random.randint(1,7)
        if pos > 100:
        # To "play" without chutes and ladders, comment out the next line.
        pos = d[pos]

plt.subplots_adjust( .13, .15, .95, .97)
plt.hist(numturnsa, 60)
plt.xlabel("Number of turns")
plt.savefig("chuteshist_nochutes.png", dpi=200)
numturnsa = np.array(numturnsa, dtype="f")
print "The average number of turns is",np.mean(numturnsa)

Hungry Mouth

I wasn’t there when it happened, but the story I heard is that the kids were riding in the car. The younger said “Baby Hungry”. The older looked at her mouth and scolded, “you’re not hungry. I can tell by your mouth. If you were hungry your tongue would be more red!”

Mommy, naturally, thought this was weird. When she told me the story I explained how I had heard that Parent Birds know which chick to feed because the hungry ones have a redder mouth. I understand the blood flows to the digestive parts after they’re fed, so the red-mouthed baby gets more food. The same rules must apply to Little Sister.

Hades and the Sandwich

About two months ago I started to tell my young son stories, to teach him the idea of narrative. The stories are almost always about a medium sized dog named Hades, who is extraordinarily clever for a dog. Hades lives with his family: Mommy, Daddy, William, and Elizabeth and has many adventures.

In the last few weeks Liam has begun to tell me stories of Hades’ adventures. This is one of those stories.

Listen along as Liam tells it.

Once upon a time there was a dog named Hades. Hades was a very clever dog. And smart. This is the story of when Hades got to eat a sandwich.

Now it was the first day of September, and everyone was planning to go out for dinner. What they always got every time they went to that place, it was called Mouse Begins Earth, and was such a good place. They got a big sandwich. They got eight foot-longs for all four of them, because the foot-longs were so good.

The kind of foot-longs there were was all kinds of foot-longs. There was one with cheese and ham, and there was one with some meat and pork chop and hot dog. The other one was about sound, it was called sound meat. It was sooo good.

They got that every time they went to that restaurant. And that’s why they liked it. And Hades, he was allowed to go to that restaurant, but no helping dogs were allowed because they wouldn’t work, they would be too wild. But regular dogs would be good.

And Hades would eat some of that sandwich. So they would get 9 foot-longs but one with just dog food inside of it for Hades. And Hades liked that dog food sandwich, it was OK. I guess he liked it, but it was OK. So Hades ate that sandwich and they went home but it was four o’clock in the afternoon because they left so early that they didn’t have time to do anything else. So they just sat around and watched TV.

The End

Dogs on the Roof

Oh, the things you’ll see.

After dinner yesterday I was looking out the kitchen window, and lo, there were dogs on the roof of the house across the street. Two medium sized, confident, bold, and clearly well-loved dogs. The story evolved a little, but I’ll never tell it better than the pictures.