Foreknowledge of those shapes, she explained, could lead to a breakthrough phenomenon she described as “a perpetual Tetris” of unlimited duration.

“While this remains entirely hypothetical at this moment, there exists a theoretical point at which the elimination of bottom rows occurs with such speed and efficiency that there is always enough room at the top of the matrix to accommodate new pieces,” Edelman said.

This is, surprisingly, a question about random number generators. It turns out that if you get 70,000 consecutive Z or S pieces, then you’re guaranteed to lose – try it out with Heidi Burgiel’s Java applet or the accompanying paper. Since that number is not zero, this will almost surely happen in an infinite “idealized” Tetris game. (But, of course, Tetris doesn’t have a perfect random number generator; as the Wikipedia article points out, the generator that is used repeats its numbers with small enough period that this almost certainly doesn’t happen.)

Are there any other examples of “real” math hiding in the Onion?

Back in September, they posted “Nations math teachers unveil 27 new trig functions” http://www.theonion.com/articles/nations-math-teachers-introduce-27-new-trig-functi,33804/ I discovered that there are some obsolete trig functions that we don’t learn any more:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/2013/09/12/10-trig-functions-youve-never-heard-of/

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