As we all know, there are 8,714 distinct
varieties of cheese known to man. Yet it
is clear
that this number represents only a small
fraction of possible cheeses.

Cheeses differ in a number of
parameters:
; the species and breed from which the
milk is obtained; the extent to which
the
milk is fat-enriched or fat-depleted; the
quantities of rennet or other agents used
for curdling; the temperature of
curdling.....the list goes on. In fact,
there
are 1,038 variables which have a material
impact on the nature of the final
product.

Of these variables, some are binary
"yes/no" variables, whilst others (such as
those involving temperature) are almost
infinitely variable. However, to a first
approximation, we can assume that each
variable will have (on average) 11
distinct
values.

Crudely speaking, therefore, there are
11^1038 possible combinations of
cheese-producing variables. Naturally,
some combinations of variables will yield
cheeses which are identical, but modern
graph theory, coupled with Bel's
Dependent Variable law, makes it
impossible to predict a priori which
cheeses will be identical.

Now, I put it to you that the current
8,714
cheese varieties represent only a very
sparse sampling of the available cheese-
space. Who knows what strange and
wonderful caseinic treasures lurk in the
dark corners of the fractal cheeseiverse?

Unfortunately, exploration of the
available
cheese-space using conventional
methods
is inappropriate. The average weight of a
mature cheese is 1.53kg, from which it
follows that there is insufficient mass in
the universe to allow the protyping of all
conceivable cheeses.

Strangely, a similar situation prevails in
the field of protein crystallization
(required in order to produce crystallized
proteins for X-ray crystallography).
Many
variables (the concentration of various
salts and of the protein itself;
temperatures; rate of solvent
evaporation;
pH .....) must be fine-tuned in order to
find the conditions which yield good
crystals.

Protein crystallographers have addressed
this problem by using combinations of
robotic and microfluidic systems to
analyse the effects of large numbers of
variables on many very small samples of
proteins. In this way, they can sample
more widely through crystallization
space,
and are more likely to find the right
conditions.

I propose, therefore, a systematic search
of cheese-space using robotic and
microfluidic techniques. According to
Camme and Buertt, the minimum mass of
cheese which can be reliably guaged for
quality is 2.71828 grams (a value which
has never been adequately explained).
Therefore, we need to start building a
robotic system tailored to this need.

The system will sample from reservoirs
of
milk from all the known cheese-yielding
species (12, according to Bistroof and
Flatus), and from reservoirs of the 574
known cheese additives. Reagent
batches
of 2.71828 grams will be prepared
combinatorially, and subjected to all
possible combinations of curdling,
pressing, storage, ripening and coating
regimes. The end result will be a
complete set of 11^1038 miniature
cheeses, representing a complete
sampling of available cheese-space in all
dimensions.

8,714 types of cheese = 1 different cheese every day for almost 24 years. When you get to the end, just start over again! If you're lucky, you'll get to try each one three times before you die.

But that would present a static model,
whereas the cheese states vary
according to the
phase angle through the maturity and
ripeness dimensions. So you'd need that
amount of cheeses, times each discrete
phase transition of maturity. Otherwise,
it'd make a difference if you leave a
certain
cheese for a few months time, while
you're
sampling others in the meantime, or
whether you try it now.

What Ian said about state transition during the maturisation phase - which would require taking account of a further set of dimensions.

Re the value of 2.71828 - I think this is due to one of the e's in cheese - which is itself a mathematical formula (c.h)x(e.e)x(s.e) from ancient times, the full meaning of which is yet to be fully understood.

Cheeses of a holey nature could have their internal topologies mapped using ultrasound techniques, or for more accurate results, be passed through one of those MRI scanners, the results of which could be printed out and attached to the cheese, allowing prospective customers to appraise the sub-dermal properties of any cheese immediately prior to purchase.

Originally, of course, there was simply
one cheese, which did in fact have holes
in. All current cheeses - with or without
holes in - are derived from this single
canonical holey cheese. The original
formula referred to by zen tom was lost
in the sea, long ago, during an
expedition. The scrolls contained vital
details pertinent to the onset of this
round of civilisation, but alas, they're at
the bottom of the sea. If they were lost
in that particular sea in the present
day, they'd simply have floated to the
top.

Why are there only 12 cheese producing animals? What is that goat, cow, sheep, yak, camel, llama, etc. How about kangaroo, platapus, mouse, rat, cat, dog, etc. Don't all mammals make milk?

At some risk of doing a [rotary] might I advance my [link] as a simple way of collating and ranking these cheesenomes, not that this is an exhortation to a list or nuffink.

//there are 11^1038 possible combinations of cheese-producing variables//

As the number of possible cheeses may exceed the number of atoms in the universe, it is only possible to conclude that atoms themselves are in some sense made of cheese. At some primal level, we may one day discover that all atomic particles are constructed of sticky crumbs of of curdled milk. Yet, theory suggests that there are surprisingly few basic cheeses. Possibly as few as three (along with their anti-cheeses), but these in combination produce the near infinite variety of cheeses we experience.

Ian, Ian, Ian. Please tell me that that
statement was an intentionally ironic
quote from Stephen Fry on QI. Either that
or explain exactly what kangaroo and
platypus are.

any given piece of cheese contains thousands of different "cheeses" by your mathematical definition and if we further recognize that these cheeses "blends of absolute properties of cheesiness" are infact unique cheeses for being distinct definable mixtures there are far more "kinds" of cheese (for instance the effect of aging produces a new "cheese" in your model) than can be easily calculated even with a liberal application of overlap. This is absurd. Instead I have come to believe in what I call the quantum string cheese theory. When we employ the model of the quantum cheese string we can look at cheese as a series of slices in a time/space continuum.

Your logic is floored. There is not an infinite number of
cheeses, good or bad. But there are lots of cheeses. In fact,
the number of cheeses has been shown to be not less than
Ickabod's Number, which is the largest non-infinite number
to have a practical meaning. (It should not be confused with
Myfoot's Number, which can happen in cold weather or if you
fall asleep with your legs crossed.)