Its a wrap

a wolf wrap

I have been following the development of Wolf Wrap Major with interest, because it has been created by the partner of one of my American handbell ringing friends. He is a mathematician, not a ringer, but I guess you cannot be married to a ringer for decades without taking a passing interest and picking up a few ideas.  Even my resident muggle can talk quite knowledgeably about bells, despite never having touched a rope in his life. There is a sort of osmosis thing going on.

Apparently this particular muggle, amongst other things, coordinates the first year course options at an American college, trying to make sure that everyone has their best fit of first, second and third course choices. An algorithm is required because shuffling scraps of paper would be too complicated, and what if an unexpected draught blew them all over the room? You would have to start from scratch. This gave him the idea for some sort of Mathematica based bell ringing principle, which he has named Wolf Wrap. If I understood Stan properly (and it quite possible that I got the wrong end of the stick), the new principle maximises the number of wraps (rounds which cross the lead end)

 Wolfram Mathematica is a software system with built-in libraries for several areas of technical computing that allow machine learning, statistics data manipulation, symbolic computation, network analysis, time series analysis, plotting functions and various types of data, implementation of algorithms creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other programming languages It was conceived by Stephen Wolfram in 1988.  I copied that bit from Wikipedia because it means little to me – only that it is clever stuff

Last week, Stan, the creator, appeared as a mystery guest on our weekly transatlantic zoom call because some of the americans had just scored the first quarter of Wolf Wrap on handbells. A British band had scored a Spliced Stedman/Wolf Wrap on 3rd June on tower bells in the ringing room, but the americans went one better a day later – a quarter of pure Wolf Wrap. An impressive achievement, but what I would expect from them because they are very accomplished handbell ringers. They rang a plain course for our delectation and what a strange sound it is. To my barely tutored ear it sounded peculiar because as the wrap and near-wrap crossed between strokes it sounded most unlikely – a row of near-rounds with a handstroke gap in the middle. The sort of thing that, if it happened in the tower, would have my teacher looking pointedly in my direction.

Armed with the place notation (x18 56X 16X 18.34 x56 x78 – yields 96 changes), I had a try on Abel and awkward does not do justice to the sensation. It was fascinating but so counter intuitive that I was suspicious that the computer had made a mistake. Even when I eliminated myself in case I was causing the problem, it still sounded strange, although much more even. I counted 13 wraps but so many near wraps that they seemed to be scattered all over the place, confusing the ear and defying expectations of what will happen next. If I hear a near-miss, I often assume that someone has gone wrong! Once bobs and singles were introduced  to extend to a quarter peal, the number of wraps falls to 5, since the carefully constructed pattern is disturbed.

An interesting experience but fiendishly tricky.

All credit to the creator and those that took the trouble to learn it. I am not convinced that it will catch on, but if you are fascinated by the interface between mathematics and ringing, then it is certainly something to look at and marvel that the human brain can come up with such things. But then they probably said the same about Stedman back in the 17th century and he possibly shuffled lots of little bits of paper in a draughty room.

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