Group Theory in the Bedroom

Talk about a title to pique your interest! Coming from American Scientist magazine, I wasn't exactly expecting a mathematical analysis of the ménage-à-trois, but I didn't expect to find an exposé on matresses, either! Note the subtitle: An insomniac's guide to the curious mathematics of mattress flipping! Read it and laugh, as well as learn a bit of group theory!

Having run out of sheep the other night, I found myself counting the ways to flip a mattress. Earlier that day I had flipped the very mattress on which I was not sleeping, and the chore had left a residue of puzzled discontent. If you're going to bother at all with such a fussbudget bit of housekeeping, it seems like you ought to do it right, rotating the mattress to a different position each time, so as to pound down the lumps and fill in the sags on all the various surfaces. The trouble is, in the long interval between flips I always forget which way I flipped it last time. Lying awake that night, I was turning the problem over in my head, searching for a golden rule of mattress flipping.

(link) [American Scientist Online]

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