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By George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics

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Tim Chartier at Davidson College has discovered that if you make things out of candy there’s no lack of volunteers to help you clean up. He takes images and transforms them mathematically into arrays of candy pieces. Here you can see President Obama, as rounded to the set of m&m color values. Mathematically, the algorithm picks the available color which is closest in red-green-blue-space to the average of the pixels it replaces.

Tim’s program has controls that allow the user to change the image, the candy, and the resolution.  Since Easter is coming up, you may find a use for this recipe to make another U.S. president, this time from 400 peeps:

As Tim notes on his blog, “The best part is taking it apart!”

More:
See all of George Hart’s Math Monday columns

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor for Boing Boing and WINK Books. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.


  • Anonymous

    New project: Candy Drawbot…

    But somebody else has to do it, I’m trying to lose weight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cory-Poole/785715986 Cory Poole

    It seems like the applet on the website only allows you to use 3 preloaded images. A workaround for this if you wanted to use different images would be to use standard photomosaic software and then use pictures of individual candies on a white background as the images that make up the mosaic tiles. Presumably the math that these programs use is similar to that used by this program.

    I’ve used the freely available andrea mosaic to make photo and video mosaics previously and probably will play with this idea sometime soon.

    http://www.andreaplanet.com/andreamosaic/

  • http://twitter.com/nycdesigner nycdesigner

    I would like to see an updated program that takes advantage of the 24 colors that are available in M&Ms at certain mall stores and specialty shops.

  • http://twitter.com/nycdesigner nycdesigner

    I would like to see an updated program that takes advantage of the 24 colors that are available in M&Ms at certain mall stores and specialty shops.

  • http://twitter.com/Desmos Desmos.com (@Desmos)

    These are incredible! Thanks to Tim for sharing this cool tool – it recently inspired one of our users (@LukeSelfWalker) to create a pointillist of President Obama: http://www.desmos.com/calculator/g1ty27ovzk