‘Where’s Wally?’ is a popular book series that kept children and adults alike dumbfounded trying to find him.
Despite being dressed in bright red and white bold stripes, readers struggle to find him in pages crammed with drawings meant to confuse our minds.
One fun fact about Wally is that he’s known by different names around the world. While in some places his name is similar, like ‘Volli’ or ‘Willie’, in France he is known as ‘Charlie’, while in India he is called ‘Hetti’.
No matter what he is called, Slate has discovered the best way to find the popular character – and all you need is a simple tape measure to find him efficiently, reports Mirror.
Slate comments that true randomness is hard to achieve even if that’s your intention. According to illustrator and creator of Where’s Wally?, Martin Handford, unpredictability is not something that he necessarily aims for. He once told Scholastic: “As I work my way through a picture, I add Wally when I come to what I feel is a good place to hide him.”
By mapping out Handford’s patterns, Slate sought the mathematical reasoning behind finding Wally by taking to the seven primary books with a tape measure in hand.
They discovered that 53 per cent of the time, Wally can be found inside one of two 1.5 inch tall sections, one beginning three inches from the bottom of the page and another one starting seven inches from the bottom of the page, stretching across the spread.
A good strategy to begin your hunt with is to start scanning these aforementioned sections as a first port of call. 1.5 inches isn’t exactly a small section to scope out but it breaks down the page and is small enough to focus on. Plus, over half the time, you’ll find Wally there.
Slate put their theorem to the test, pitting two colleagues against each other, one utilising the traditional scanning the page method and the other armed with the findings and a tape measure.
The colleague equipped with the knowledge of the hack and a tape measure came out on top, locating Wally the quickest each and every time.
The probability of any two 1.5 inch bands containing at least 50 per cent of Wally’s appearances is remarkably slim, less than 0.3 per cent in fact. In basic terms, the findings don’t appear to be a coincidence and Wally is there for a reason.
So, why is Wally more likely to reside in these two areas?
As pointed out by Slate, most two-page spreads feature a postcard from Wally in the upper left hand side of the page, taking up around 15 square inches. Wally of course cannot be hidden here, eliminating this from a possible hiding space.
However, the corresponding space on the right hand page is home to Wally just four times during the experiment, which is slightly less than we would expect if Wally were really to be placed randomly.
This suggests that the area taken up by the postcard is not depriving Handford of any favoured territory.
Generally, Hanford shies away from putting Wally near the top or bottom of a page, something which leaves Slate to theorise that the placement of Wally is mainly a function comprised of two factors: aversion from extremes and aversion from the middle.
Whilst we would expect Wally to be hidden within an inch-and-a-half of the page’s top or bottom borders, almost 25 per cent of the time, if Handford were to be placing him randomly, in practice he is there only in 12 per cent of all pages.
Additionally, Wally is unlikely to be found in the middle of a page as the middle and edges of pages are generally avoided (although this isn’t always the case) possibly because these locations could be seen as being too obvious and likely to jump out at you on the page, depriving you of the adrenaline-filled hunt for the stripe sporting icon.
This may make it harder to find Wally for those of us whose eyes naturally stray to the edges and the middle as a starting point but once you know it’s a slim chance of finding him there, it breaks down the page and makes him much easier to uncover. Leading you to shout ‘There’s Wally!’ rather than giving up due to pent up frustration.