[SUMMARY] Probable Iterations (#141)

As a couple of solvers noted, this is an easy problem that's really just about
counting. In fact, you can solve the entire problem without ever rolling a die.

The trick is really in how you think about the problem. Basically we want to
enumerate all of the possible rolls from:

  [1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1]


  [6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6]

Let me show you that one more time though, minus some Ruby syntax characters:

  111111 to 666666

Now it starts to look like counting, right? It almost is. If we counted
straight between those two numbers though, we would pick up some digits that
aren't on our dice. But if we drop the digits on both sides by one:

  000000 to 555555

Now that is counting, in base six, and it's just a quick transliteration to
adjust the digits up. We're going to look at a solution that does just that.

While I put the code together that I'm going to show you, it's heavily inspired
from many of the submissions I liked. Let's just say that this week's showcased
solution belongs to everyone.

Here's the argument processing code:

  #!/usr/bin/env ruby -wKU
  MODE = if ARGV.first =~ /-([sv])/
  unless ARGV.size == 2
    abort "Usage: #{File.basename($PROGRAM_NAME)} [-s|-v] NUM_DICE MIN_FIVES"
  NUM_DICE, MIN_FIVES = ARGV.map { |n| Integer(n) }
  # ...

This code should be pretty easy to break down. We check to see if the first
argument looks like a switch and store it in the MODE constant when it does.
Note that the code doesn't provide an else branch for this check, but Ruby will
default the constant to nil for us when the if condition fails to match.

The next bit of code just ensures that we have the two required arguments,
converts them or throws an error if they are not what we expected, and stores
them in constants for future use.

We're now ready for the counting code:

  # ...
  desirable_outcomes = 0
  POSSIBLE_OUTCOMES.times do |i|
    outcome = i.to_s(6).rjust(NUM_DICE, "0")
    if desirable = outcome.count("4") >= MIN_FIVES
      desirable_outcomes += 1
    if MODE == "v" or (MODE == "s" and (i % 50_000).zero?)
      puts "%#{NUM_DICE}d [%s]#{' <==' if desirable}" %
           [i + 1, outcome.tr("0-5", "1-6").gsub(/(\d)(\d)/, '\1,\2')]
  # ...

This is the heart of the code and, as you can see, still quite simple. We begin
by defining the range we will iterate over, from zero to the maximum count on
the requested number of dice.

The times() iterator does the actual count. Remember that we really want these
numbers in base six. The first line of the iterator does the conversion,
padding with zeros to ensure we have the right number of "dice."

The first if branch is our test for the minimum number of fives. When found, we
bump a global counter that can later be used to generate results.

The final if statement handles printing for either of the inspection modes. If
we're in verbose mode, or sample mode and on a 50,000th iteration, the code
prints the result index, the dice values, and an indicator arrow for rolls that
were flagged as desirable. This is where you see the code to bump all of the
digits so they will match pips on a die.

The final bit of code, just prints the results:

  # ...
  puts if MODE
  puts "Number of desirable outcomes is #{desirable_outcomes}"
  puts "Number of possible outcomes is #{POSSIBLE_OUTCOMES}"
  puts "Probability is #{desirable_outcomes / POSSIBLE_OUTCOMES.to_f}"

This is as easy as it gets. We show the desirable, the possible, and calculate
the odds from the two of them. The first line just sneaks in a line of padding
between any sampling and the end results.

Again, this code combined things I liked from many of the solutions, so they are
definitely worth a look. Especially don't miss Alex LeDonne's second solution
which uses some math to skip counting at all, when it can get away with it.

As always, my thanks to all who took the time to solve this quiz. I feel like
we always get creative results for the simple problems.

Tomorrow we will tackle one of the all time famous tough problems, and see if we
just can't solve it reasonably well with minimal knowledge of the domain...