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The art of the problem.

DEAR Dr Maths,

My favourite piece of Fluxus art, which is on display in the Baltic this month, is George Maciunas' Homage to Yoko Ono. The painting contains Yoko Ono's name within a single square.

I managed to create my own name from the painting and I thought your readers would find it an interesting challenge to see if it was possible to create their own names from this single square painting.

Leanne, Gateshead

The picture below is a geometrical representation of George Maciunas' artwork, and illustrates how you can use it to create the letters in Yoko Ono's name.

Leanne's guess that it maybe possible to create every name within the artwork is called a conjecture in mathematics, as it has not yet been proved to be possible. To prove it is true we would have to find a way to write down every letter of the alphabet.

There are many unproven conjectures in mathematics. One such conjecture is that there are infinitely many twin primes. A prime number is only divisible by itself and one. For example the first six prime numbers are two, three, five, seven, 11,13.

Twin prime numbers have a gap of one whole number between them, for example three and five, five and seven, 11 and 13. The French mathematician Alphonse de Polig-nac made this guess in 1849 when he questioned if these pairs of primes can always be found and how often. Since then more than 100,000 twin primes have been discovered. Here is a puzzle for you to try: Leanne's conjecture states that it is possible to write down every letter of the alphabet using George Maciunas' art work. Write in showing how you write the word "Gateshead" using the top picture. The first correct entry drawn will win a copy of the book More Mathematical Curiosities, published by Tarquin.

Well done to Demi Allen who e-mailed her correct answer to the last puzzle that the number at the centre of the cross has to be odd.

Do you have a maths question or problem? Write to Dr Maths, Evening Chronicle, Groat Market, Newcastle, NE1 1ED or send an e-mail to
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2009
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