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# Robotic cheese-space explorer

Combinatorial cheesistry
 (+14, -2) [vote for, against]

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.

Then the tasting can begin.

 — MaxwellBuchanan, May 07 2008

most excellent device....... Mitchell and Webb (BBC comedy duo) [xenzag, May 08 2008]

dimensional profiling by typeface dimensional_20profiling_20by_20typeface
cheesy characters [james_what, May 08 2008]

"quite a few unique platypus characteristics" [jutta, May 08 2008]

Human cheese http://www.indrani..../breast_milk_cheese
failed experiment (illustrated) [pocmloc, Jan 23 2010]

<Hooray!> Ilchester! </Hooray!>
 — gnomethang, May 07 2008

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.
 — phoenix, May 07 2008

I, for one, am not interested in certain additives...
 — Voice, May 08 2008

I don't really trust robots, but if one were to offer me cheese, I could not refuse. This may additionally bring more people into the cheese fold.
 — mylodon, May 08 2008

 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.
 — zen_tom, May 08 2008

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?
 — MisterQED, May 08 2008

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.
 — james_what, May 08 2008

//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.
 — ldischler, May 08 2008

Nice paragraph breaks.
 — normzone, May 08 2008

 //Kangaroo and platypus aren't mammals.//

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.
 — MaxwellBuchanan, May 08 2008

Apart from being a frog, the platypus doesn't have nipples, which is why it's not commercially used as a source of milk.
 — ldischler, May 08 2008

Whey not?
 — normzone, May 08 2008

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.
 — WcW, May 09 2008

I'm no rocket cheese scientist, but I don’t believe there is a high probability of discovering a cheese de-stinked enough to be worth the investment.
 — bneal27, May 09 2008

I hope "human" is on that list of 12...
 — Voice, May 09 2008

What about all the corresponding wines for the tasting?
 — Riki, Jan 23 2010

 Yes! Yes! Yes!

(The nation which perfects this will be completely ungoverable.)
 — mouseposture, Jan 23 2010

most of the possible cheeses are not good to eat. Let's assume that the infinity of edible cheeses is smaller than the infinity of bad cheeses.
 — WcW, Jan 23 2010

 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.)

But we digress.
 — MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 23 2010

 sp. Ichabod

If it has indeed been demonstrated that n(cheeses)>_n(Icd), does this mean that this idea has been scientifically proven to be impractical?
 — pocmloc, Jan 23 2010

No. Ichabod's number is three less. It's one of those coincidences that makes the neck on the back of my hair stand up.
 — MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 23 2010

I see, no it does not, for if it were equal it may have practicality.
 — pocmloc, Jan 23 2010

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