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This Beautiful Visualization Makes Prime Factors Dance

"I knew that I should take his lovely little dots and make them dance"

A snapshot from “Factor Conga.” Photo: Data Pointed

When Data Pointed’s Stephen Von Worley stumbled upon a program that creates diagrams of numbers’ prime factors on Brent Yorgey’s The Math Less Traveled, he decided to take the diagrams and make them move. Upon first sight of the brilliant factors, Von Worley writes, “I knew that I should take his lovely little dots and make them dance.”

Factors—the numbers that are multiplied together to create a final number—can be visualized as series of dots. For example, Yorgey offers 700. Its factors, 7 x 5 x 5 x 2 x 2, become:

Von Worley kicked those dots up a notch, creating Factor Conga. He describes the game was ”a promenade of primes, composites, and their constituents, arranged with an aesthetically-tuned variation of Yorgey’s rules, one per second.”

Factor fans can play with the program interactively, or sit back and enjoy the promenade of dots as they do their thing. Or, Von Worley writes, punch up the dance pace and ”whirl there with a tap of the fast forward button” while factors morph into so many rainbow snowflakes.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Math Odyssey
Coming Soon: The NYC Math Museum 

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