A legend used in the movie “The Happening”

Well M. Night Shyamalan may have made another disappointing movie – The Happening, but I somewhat liked it. I would give it a grade of B.

In the movie, John Leguzomo’s character, a math teacher, is distracting his fellow panicking passenger in the Jeep with a mathematical question. The question he asks her is if he gave her a penny on Day 1 of the month, two pennies on Day 2 of the month, four pennies on Day 3 of the month, and so on, how much would money would she have after a month. She shouts $300 or some odd number like that. But, do you know that the amount is actually more than a 10 million dollars (Thanks to a student who mentioned that it was a penny that John offered on the first day, not a dollar – sometimes I do feel generous).

This question is based on a story from India and it goes as follows.

King Shriham of India wanted to reward his grand minister Ben for inventing the game of chess. When asked what reward he wanted, Ben asked for 1 grain of rice on the first square of the board, 2 on the second square of the board, 4 on the third square of the board, 8 on the fourth square of the board, and so on till all the 64 squares were covered. That is, he was doubling the number of grains on each successive square of the board. Although Ben’s request looked less than modest, King Shriham quickly found that the amount of rice that Ben was asking for was humongous.


Write a MATLAB (you can use any other programming language) program for the following using the for or while loop.

  1. Find out how many grains of rice Ben was asking for.
  2. If the mass of a grain of rice is 2 mg, and the world production of rice in recent years has been approximately 600,000,000 tons (1 ton=1000 kg), how many times the modern world production was Ben’s request?
  3. Do the inverse problem – find out how many squares are covered if the the number of grains on the chess board are given to you. For example, how many squares will be covered if the number of grains on the chess board are 16?

This post is brought to you by Holistic Numerical Methods: Numerical Methods for the STEM undergraduate at http://nm.mathforcollege.com

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