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Posts Tagged ‘puzzles

“The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance”*…

 

Roman 12mm dice

Random numbers are central to more than we may realize.  They have applications in gambling, statistical sampling, computer simulation and Monte Carlo modeling, cryptography (as applied in both communications and transactions), completely randomized design, even sooth-saying– in any area where producing an unpredictable result is desirable.  So how they’re produced– the certainty that they are, in fact, random– matters enormously.

It’s no surprise, then, that random number generation has a long and fascinating history.  Happily, Carl Tashian is here to explain.

“As an instrument for selecting at random, I have found nothing superior to dice,” wrote statistician Francis Galton in an 1890 issue of Nature. “When they are shaken and tossed in a basket, they hurtle so variously against one another and against the ribs of the basket-work that they tumble wildly about, and their positions at the outset afford no perceptible clue to what they will be even after a single good shake and toss.”…

From I Ching sticks and dice to the cryptographically-secure PRNG, “A Brief History of Random Numbers.”

[TotH to the eminently-numerate Reuben Steiger]

Robert Coveyou

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As we roll the bones, we might spare a thought for Samuel “Sam” Loyd; he died on this date in 1911. A chess player, chess composer, puzzle author, and recreational mathematician.  A member of the Chess Hall of Fame (for both his play and for his exercises, or “problems”), he gained posthumous fame when his son published a collection of his mathematical and logic puzzles, Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles after his father’s death.  As readers can see here and here, his puzzles still delight.

Loyd’s most famous puzzle was the 14-15 Puzzle, which he produced in 1878. His original authorship is debated; but in any case, his version created a craze that swept America to such an extent that employers put up notices prohibiting playing the puzzle during office hours.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

“If it’s zero degrees outside today and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?”*…

 

One of the most famous literary riddles in literature is also the most frustrating … because it came without an answer! In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter poses this puzzle to Alice:

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Eight other head-scratchers (with answers to all) at “9 of History’s Best Riddles.”

* Steven Wright

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As we puzzle, we might spare a thought for Terry Southern; he died on this date in 1995.  Best remembered as a novelist and screenwriter–  Dr. StrangeloveThe Loved OneThe Cincinnati KidEasy Rider, Candy, and The Magic Christian, among others; Southern’s work on Easy Rider helped create the independent film movement of the 1970s.  But perhaps as importantly, Tom Wolfe credits Southern with inventing New Journalism with the publication of “Twirling at Ole Miss” in Esquire in 1962.

Southern, photographed by Stanley Kubrick

source

Written by LW

October 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

By any other name…

 

Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music.
– Frank Capra

Can you figure out these movie titles?

These and other mathematical mysteries at Spiked Math‘s Movie Math Quiz. (For answers to the examples above, click on the clues… but do browse further.)

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As we wonder if this is what “transitive” means, we might send burnished birthday greetings to Maxwell Perkins; he was born on this date in 1884.  Probably the most famous literary editor of all time, Perkins discovered, assisted, promoted, and/or otherwise mentored many of the most important American writers of the first half of the Twentieth Century including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ring Lardner, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Erskine Caldwell, Edmund Wilson, James Jones, Vance Bourjaily, and (especially) Thomas Wolfe.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

September 20, 2013 at 1:01 am

Now where did I leave that key?…

The legend in the map above has been removed.  Try guessing what it signifies using only clues contained within the map—the relationships between color-coded regions, say.

(One clue to get you started: The map doesn’t analyze “gross national” anything.)

The answer is here.

Thanks to The Morning News.

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As we we recall that context is everything, we might we might spare a thought for Jean Cocteau; he died on this date in 1963.  An avatar of the avant-garde, Cocteau was a prolific poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker… and a passionate friend (and often more) to the likes of Kenneth Anger, Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Jean Marais, Henri Bernstein, Yul Brynner, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, María Félix, and Édith Piaf.  He is probably best remembered for his novel Les Enfants Terribles, and his films Blood of a PoetLes Parents TerriblesBeauty and the Beast, and Orpheus.

 source

Written by LW

October 11, 2012 at 8:07 am

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Who owns the fish?…

From the good folks at Coudal Partners, a puzzle purportedly created by Albert Einstein…

There are five houses in a row in different colors. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. The five owners drink a different drink, smoke a different brand of cigar and keep a different pet, one of which is a Walleye Pike.

The question is– who owns the fish?

Hints:
1. The Brit lives in the red house.
2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
3. The Dane drinks tea.
4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
5. The green house owner drinks coffee.
6. The person who smokes Pall Malls keeps birds.
7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhills.
8. The man living in the house right in the center drinks milk.
9. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
10. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the one who smokes Dunhills.
12. The owner who smokes Bluemasters drinks beer.
13. The German smokes Princes.
14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
15. The man who smokes Blends has a neighbor who drinks water.

There’s nothing up anyone’s sleeve (as though fish had sleeves…); and everything one needs to know is there.

Successful solutions can be confirmed here.  And readers can find a second fish puzzle here, and a little teaser called “Da Vinci’s Other Code” here.

As we scratch our heads, we might wish a Joyeux Anniversaire to silk weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard; he was born on this date in 1752.  Jacquard’s 1805 invention of the programmable power loom, controlled by a series of punched “instruction” cards and capable of weaving essentially any pattern, ignited a technological revolution in the textile industry… indeed, it set off a chain of revolutions: it inspired Charles Babbage in the design of his “Difference Engine” (the ur-computer), and later, Herman Hollerith, who used punched cards in the “tabulator” that he created for the 1890 Census… and in so doing, pioneered the use of those cards for computer input.

Joesph Marie Jacquard (source)

Twas the Night Before Christmas: The Art House Edition…

Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem, originally entitled “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” has been a Christmas staple since it’s publication (in The New York Sentinel) on December 23, 1823.  But it has surely never been as deeply explored nor as richly interpreted as by the director of Caves Of Forgotten Dreams, Encounters At The End Of The World, and Grizzly Man:

Readers might also enjoy Germany’s cinematic treasure reading Curious George, Where’s Waldo, and Madeline… just visit Ryan Iverson’s “Stupid is the New Awesome” channel on You Tube.

As we sigh at the Existential ennui of it all, we might recall that it was exactly 90 years later– on this date in 1913– that Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross,” the first crossword puzzle, was published in the New York World:

2-3.    What bargain hunters enjoy.        6-22.    What we all should be.
4-5.    A written acknowledgment.         4-26.    A day dream.
6-7.    Such and nothing more.                2-11.    A talon.
10-11.    A bird.                                            19-28.    A pigeon.
14-15.    Opposed to less.                           F-7.    Part of your head.
18-19.    What this puzzle is.                     23-30.    A river in Russia.
22-23.    An animal of prey.                      1-32.    To govern.
26-27.    The close of a day.                      33-34.    An aromatic plant.
28-29.    To elude.                                      N-8.    A fist.
30-31.    The plural of is.                           24-31.    To agree with.
8-9.    To cultivate.                                     3-12.    Part of a ship.
12-13.    A bar of wood or iron.                20-29.    One.
16-17.    What artists learn to do.            5-27.    Exchanging.
20-21.    Fastened.                                      9-25.    To sink in mud.
24-25.    Found on the seashore.             13-21.    A boy.
10-18.    The fibre of the gomuti palm.

solution (source)

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