# Rubik’s Cube

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pages: 242 words: 68,019

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, From Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo

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In a system whose evolution is affected by chance (like in a statistical physics system), getting a series of consecutive moves right is not easy. Think of a Rubik’s cube. A Rubik’s cube illustrates the connection between available paths and entropy perfectly, since you will never be able to solve a Rubik’s cube by chance (even though in your desperation you might try). A Rubik cube has more than 43 quintillion possible states (that is, 43,252,003,274,489,856,000, or 4.3 × 1019), only one of which is perfectly ordered. Also, a Rubik’s cube is a system in which order is not that far away, since it is always possible to solve a Rubik’s cube in twenty moves or less.10 That sounds like a relatively small number, but finding the right twenty moves is not an easy feat. Most people solve the cube by traversing paths that are much more circuitous.

These meaningless forms of order are what information truly is.* Finally, I will connect the multiplicity-of-states definition of entropy with our ability to process information (that is, compute). As we saw in the Rubik’s cube example, information-rich states are hard to find, not only because they are rare but also because there are few paths leading to them. That’s why we equate the ability of someone to solve a Rubik’s cube with a form of intelligence, since those who know how to solve a Rubik’s cube get credit for finding these rare paths (or memorizing the rules to find them). But there are also examples simpler than a Rubik’s cube that we can use to illustrate the connection between the multiplicity of states of a system and computation. Consider the game where babies put shapes such as cylinders and cubes in their respective holes.

The basic method for solving the cube (building the top cross, positioning the corners, completing the middle row, etc.) usually takes more than fifty moves to complete (and until recently people believed that the number of moves needed to solve the cube was larger than twenty).11 This goes to show that in a Rubik’s cube there are only a few paths that lead to the perfectly ordered solution, and these paths, whether short or long, are rare, as they are hidden among the immense number of paths that push the cube away from order. So the growth of entropy is like a Rubik’s cube in the hands of a child. In nature information is rare not only because information-rich states are uncommon but also because they are inaccessible given the way in which nature explores the possible states. But what are the properties of information-rich states? And how can we use knowledge about their properties to identify them? One important characteristic of information-rich states is that these involve both long-range and short-range correlations. In the case of the Rubik’s cube these correlations are conspicuous12: when the cube is perfectly ordered, each color is surrounded by as many neighbors of the same color as it possibly can be.

The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain by James Fallon

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Everyone, including neuroscientists, hates these kinds of figures of the brain, but the brain is extraordinarily complex, so we have to deal with these Jackson Pollock monstrosities from time to time. FIGURE 3A: Depression brain circuitry. Most of us, however, fall somewhere in between these camps and organize the brain into a few hundred parts. I am a splitter, and I like having thousands of specific parts to study. But for the sake of simplicity, especially when teaching or writing a paper, I like to organize the brain into a 3×3×3 “Rubik’s Cube” pattern. This twenty-seven-part brain is as simple as I’m willing to go and still be able to sleep at night without violating Einstein’s first law of simplicity in science: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Everyone is familiar with the idea that we have a left brain and a right brain. But this conception is woefully lacking in some important ways. On the next page is a drawing of the side of the brain at the top left, a view of the top of the brain looking down from above, and a view of the medial portion of the brain that you would see if you sliced the brain down the middle.

This medial piece between the left and right hemispheres is also called the limbic lobe, from the word limbus, which means “edge” in Latin, and here refers to a full circle of ancient cortex related to emotion, attention, memory, switching between cognitive and emotional states, and even helping you to see if someone has taken one of your french fries when you weren’t looking. FIGURE 3B: Brain hemispheres. The next slicing of the Rubik’s Cube brain is from front, or anterior, to back, or posterior. The most posterior region of the cortex is dedicated to the visual sensory system, as well as “association” cortices that have functions more complicated than simple seeing or touching or hearing, but rather cognitive tasks such as spatial processing. The external world—up, down, left, right, close up, far away—is mapped onto the cortex in the upper part of the posterior area, called the superior parietal cortex.

That is, you will learn to mirror the accents and cadence and patois of speech from your family and friends, but your basic ability for grammar and syntax is more genetically determined. One tends to adopt the song and rhythm of speech around the time one reaches puberty, but the range and capabilities of individuals vary widely. In the case of Henry Kissinger and his younger brother, Walter, who fled Nazi Germany in 1938, when Henry was sixteen and his brother was fourteen, the elder brother kept his pronounced Frankish accent while Walter sounded very American. In the Rubik’s Cube middle sector of the hemisphere, there are the somatic and motor areas that map the skin senses in the back half of this middle piece, and the map of the areas that control the muscles of the body. Just in front of this motor cortex is the premotor cortex, which is involved in the planning of motor movements and in learning the rules of how we swing a golf club and play the piano. These two motor-related cortices form a strip on each hemisphere in size and placement like the support arms of a set of earphones.

pages: 437 words: 132,041

Alex's Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos

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The dream of Moscovich, like everyone in his industry, is, of course, to discover a new puzzle craze. There have been only four international puzzle crazes with a mathematical slant: the tangram, the Fifteen puzzle, the Rubik’s Cube and Sudoku. So far, the Cube has been the most lucrative. More than 300 million have been sold since Ernö Rubik came up with the idea in 1974. Apart from its commercial success, the gaudily coloured cube is a popular-culture evergreen. It is the nonpareil of puzzledom and, unsurprisingly, its presence was felt at the 2008 G4G. A talk on the Rubik’s Cube in four dimensions drew huge rounds of applause. The original Rubik’s Cube is a 3 × 3 × 3 array made up of 26 smaller cubes, or cubies. Each horizontal and vertical ‘slice’ can be rotated independently. Once the pattern of the cubies is jumbled, the aim of the puzzle is to twist the slices so that each side of the cube has cubies of just one colour.

Moscovich told me Ernö Rubik was doubly brilliant. Not only was the idea of the cube a stroke of genius, but the way he made the blocks fit together was an outstandingly clever piece of engineering. When you dismantle a Rubik’s Cube there is no separate mechanical device holding it all together – each cubie contains a piece of a central, interlocking sphere. As an object, the cube itself is sexy. It is a Platonic solid, a shape that has had iconic, mystical status since at least the ancient Greeks. The brand name was also a dream: catchy, with delicious assonance and consonance. The Rubik’s Cube had an Eastern exoticism too, not from Asia this time but from Cold War Eastern Europe. It sounded a lot like Sputnik, the original showpiece of Soviet space technology. Another ingredient in its success was the fact that while solving the cube was not easy, the challenge did not put people off.

Akkersdijk also holds the record for the 2 × 2 × 2 cube (0.96secs), the 4 × 4 × 4 cube (40.05secs) and the 5 × 5 × 5 cube (1min 16.21 secs). He can also solve the Rubik’s Cube with his feet – his time of 51.36secs is fourth-best in the world. However, Akkersdijk really must improve his performance at solving the cube one-handed (33rd in the world) and blindfolded (43rd). The rules for blindfolded solving are as follows: the timer starts when the cube is shown to the competitor. He must then study it, and put on a blindfold. When he thinks it is solved he tells the judge to stop the stopwatch. The current record of 48.05secs was set by Ville Seppänen of Finland in 2008. Other speedcubing disciplines include solving the Rubik’s Cube on a rollercoaster, under water, with chopsticks, while idling on a unicycle, and during freefall. The most mathematically interesting cube-solving category is how to solve it in the fewest moves possible.

pages: 349 words: 109,304

American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

Chapter 54 JARED BECOMES CIRRUS When Jared Der-Yeghiayan was a freshman in high school, his math teacher would walk into class each day with a Rubik’s Cube in hand. Young Jared would watch as the teacher passed the colored square cube around the room, instructing every student to jumble it as much as possible. “If I can solve this Rubik’s Cube in under a minute, you all get homework,” the teacher said to the class each day. “If I can’t, you don’t get any homework.” Sure enough, every single class ended with students trudging home with a complicated math assignment. After witnessing this spectacle several times, Jared was plagued by a desire to figure out how his teacher could always solve the riddle of the cube. He ran out and picked up his own Rubik’s Cube and spent weeks trying to solve the puzzle. With a lot of tenacity and a smidgen of help from the teacher, he was finally able to do the same thing.

The only thing that made it different from preschool was that you got to carry a gun. Unsurprisingly, Jared’s training officer saw no urgency to a single pill, and it was a week before he even consented to accompany his younger colleague on the “knock-and-talk”—to knock on the door of the person who was supposed to receive the pill and, hopefully, talk with them. That day, as Jared’s government-issued Crown Victoria zigzagged through the North Side of Chicago, the small Rubik’s Cube that hung from his key chain swung back and forth in the opposite direction. His car radio was dialed into sports: the Cubs and White Sox had been eliminated from contention, but the Bears were preparing for an in-division contest against the Lions. Amid the crackle of the radio, he turned onto West Newport Avenue, a long row of two-story limestone buildings split into a dyad of top- and bottom-floor apartments.

On the nineteenth floor, fifty-nine-year-old Samuel Der-Yeghiayan adjusted his robes and court documents as he prepared for the cases he would hear later that day as a U.S. federal judge. Sixteen floors below Samuel’s chambers his thirty-one-year-old son, Jared, was walking through the halls of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, his giant backpack over his shoulder, which was bulging with laptops, a Rubik’s Cube, and folders with pictures of evidence inside. In his hands he carried a large white mail-room tub filled with thirty or so envelopes of all shapes and sizes. Young Jared Der-Yeghiayan’s nerves were frayed as he made his way toward what would be the most important meeting of his career. It wasn’t lost on him that if he screwed this up, the story of his fuckup would make its way up all those flights of stairs to his father’s office.

pages: 236 words: 50,763

The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible by Lance Fortnow

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Who would think playing Sudoku, Minesweeper, or Tetris well would show P = NP and solve one of the biggest challenges of our generation? Figure 4-9. Rubik’s Cubes. Photo by Tom van der Zanden How about Rubik’s Cube? Even the 3 × 3 × 3 cube takes a while to learn to solve; imagine how much harder solving larger cubes should be. Actually not. We have efficient algorithms to solve even large Rubik’s Cubes puzzles using a branch of mathematics known as group theory. These algorithms don’t find the absolutely shortest solution, but they always find reasonably short ways to solve the cube from any starting position that can lead to a solution. It’s surprising how easy Rubik’s Cube is to solve, while Tetris, Minesweeper, and Sudoku are hard. How about two-person games like chess, checkers, Othello, and Go? The large versions of these games are as hard as satisfiability and the rest of the NP-complete problems.

, 33–34 one-time pad encryption, 129–30 On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals (al-Khwārizmī), 32 “On the Computational Complexity of Algorithms” (Hartmanis and Stearns), 76 “On the Impossibility of Constructing Minimal Disjunctive Normal Forms for Boolean Functions by Algorithms of a Certain Class” (Zhuravlev), 80 “On the Impossibility of Eliminating Perebor in Solving Some Problems of Circuit Theory” (Yablonsky), 80 OR, in logic, 52–53 OR gates, 79, 114, 114, 116, 116 P (polynomial): circuits size in, 116; efficiency in, 36; examples of, 46; meaning of, ix, 4 pad encryption, 129–30 parallel computing, 155, 156–58 partition into triangles problem, 59 partition puzzle, 4–5, 10 Pass the Rod, 37–38, 38, 39–40, 40, 45–46 “Paths, Trees, and Flowers” (Edmonds), 35–36, 76–77 perebor (Пepeбop), 71, 80 Perelman, Grigori, 7, 12 personalized recommendations, 23, 25 physics, NP problems in, 48, 48 Pippenger, Nicholas, 157 Pitts, Walter, 75 P = NC, 157–58 P = NP: big data and, 159; cryptography and, 129–30; imagined possibilities of, 12–19, 23–27; implications of, ix, 6, 9, 10, 46; importance of question, 46; likelihood of, 9, 28; meaning of, 4; NP-complete problems and, 59; proving, versus P ≠ NP, 120–21; random number generation and, 140; as satisfiability, 54–55; very cozy groups and, 104 P ≠ NP: attempts to prove, 118–21; implications of, ix–x, 46; meaning of, 4; mistakes in proving, 119–21; proving, 46, 57, 109–21, 161–62; very cozy groups and, 104 Poe, Edgar Allan, 124 Poincaré conjecture, 7 poker protocol, 137 polyalphabetic cipher, 124 polytope, 69–70, 70 prime numbers, 67–69, 129 privacy, and P = NP, 26–27 private-key cryptography, 26 probability theory, Kolmogorov and, 81–82, 167 products, in computations, 138 programs: contradictions in, 112; for hand control, 5–6 protein folding, 47–48 protein threading, 48 pseudorandomness, 140 public-key cryptography: factoring in, 140–41; P = NP and, 26, 127; randomness in, 136–37 public randomness, 136 P versus NP: circuit size in, 116; clique circuit computation and, 117; Eastern history of, 78–85; efficiency in, 36; future of, 155–62; Gödel’s description of, 85–86; hardest problems of, 55–57; history of, 6–7; as natural concept, 87; origin of problem, 54–55; paradox approach to, 112–13; parallel computing and, 157; resolving, 161–62; sources for technical formulation, 119; terminology used for, 58–59; Western history of, 72–78 quantum adiabatic systems, 147 quantum annealing, 147 quantum bits (qubits): copying, 148, 152; definition of, 144; dimensions of, 145; entanglement of, 145, 145, 147, 151, 151–52; transporting, 150, 150–53, 151, 152; values of, 145, 145 quantum computers: capabilities of, 9, 143, 146–47; future of, 153–54 quantum cryptography, 130, 148–49 quantum error-correction, 147 quantum states, observing, 146 quantum teleportation, 149–53, 150 randomness: creating, 139–40; public, 136 random sequences, 82–83 Razborov, Alexander, 85, 117–18 reduction, 54 relativity theory, 21 Rivest, Ronald, 127–28 robotic hand, 5–6 rock-paper-scissors, 139, 139 routes, finding shortest, 7–8 RSA cryptography, 127–28, 138 Rubik’s Cube, 64, 64 Rudich, Steven, 118 rule of thumb, 92 Salt, Veruca, 1–2, 157 satisfiability: cliques and, 54, 55; competition for, 96–97; as NP, 54–55 SAT Race, 96–97 Scherbius, Arthur, 124 Scientific American, 149–50 secret key cryptography, 126 security: of computer networks, 127; on Internet, 128–29 sensor data, 158 sentences, 75, 75–76 Seven Bridges of Königsberg puzzle, 38–39, 39 Shamir, Adi, 127–28 Shannon, Claude, 79 shared private keys, 129–30 shipping containers, 160–61 Shor, Peter, 146–47 simplex method, 69 simulations, data from, 158 Sipser, Michael, 117 Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, 31–32 six degrees of separation, 30–33 Skynet effect, 13 small world phenomenon, 30–33 smart cards, finding key to, 106–7 social networking, and Frenemy relationships, 29 Solomonoff, Ray, 83 Soviet Union: genetics research in, 81; probability theory in, 81, 167 speeches, automated creation of, 24 sports broadcasting, 17–18 Sports Scheduling Group, 16 Stalin, Josef, 81 Stanford University, 126, 139 Stearns, Richard, 76 Steklov Mathematical Institute, 117 Stephenson, Henry and Holly, 16 strategy, and equilibrium states, 49 Sudoku: large games, 60, 60–61, 61; zero-knowledge, 130–36, 131, 132, 133, 134 sums, in computations, 138 Sun Microsystems, 160 Switzerland, 94, 94–95, 95 Symposium on the Complexity of Computer Computations, 78 Symposium on the Theory of Computing (STOC), 52 Tait, Peter, 42 technological innovations, dealing with, 160–61 technology, failure of, 161 teleportation, quantum, 149–53, 150 television, 3-D renderings used by, 17–18 Terminator movies, 13 Tetris, 63, 63 theoretical cybernetics, 79–85 tracking, over Internet, 159–60 Trakhtenbrot, Boris, 83–84 transistors, in circuits, 113 translation, 18, 23 traveling salesman problem: approximation of, 99–100, 100, 101; description of, 2–4, 3; size of problem, 91, 91 Tsinghua University, 12 Turing, Alan, 73–74; in computer science, 112; in Ultra, 125–26; work on Entscheidungs-problem, 49 Turing Award: for Blum, 78; for computational complexity, 76; naming of, 74; for P versus NP, 57, 85; for RSA cryptography, 128 Turing machine, 73, 73–74, 86–87 Turing test, 74 Twitter, 161 Ultra project, 124–25 unique games problem, 104 universal search algorithm, 84 universal search problems, 84–85 University of Chicago, 121 University of Illinois, 12–14 University of Montreal, 148 University of Oxford, 19–20 University of Toronto, 51 University of Washington, 5–6 Unofficial Guide to Disney World (Sehlinger and Testa), 56–57 Urbana algorithm, 12–19, 23–27 U.S.

pages: 192 words: 45,091

What in God's Name: A Novel by Simon Rich

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Craig was an Angel, a full two rungs higher than a Page, but he hadn’t bothered to correct him; he knew from experience that there was no point in reasoning with an Archangel. Besides, he was grateful for the chance to finally see God’s office. It had fulfilled all of his expectations. God’s TV was enormous—at least sixty inches—and his remote control was nuts—a shiny, chrome slab that looked like it had been molded to fit his hand. The desk was solid maple and covered with cool executive toys. There was a Rubik’s Cube (which Craig could see was impressively far along) and a gleaming executive ball clicker, the kind that swings for minutes on end when given the slightest push. Craig located the boardroom and, with some difficulty, pulled open the heavy brass door. God strolled in and Craig tried to follow, but a strong hand clamped down on his shoulder. It was Vince, a gigantically tall Archangel with slick blond hair.

But he didn’t want to confess the truth—that he’d only phoned Raoul because he was lonely. He took a slow sip of beer, stalling. “‘The End Is Near,’ ” he said finally. “‘Repent.’ ” Raoul nodded. “I’ll write it on my sign.” “Great!” God said. “That’s great, Raoul. Take care.” He turned off the television and glanced at his watch. It was more than two hours until his afternoon meeting, and he had absolutely nothing to do. He picked up his Rubik’s Cube and fooled around with it for a bit. He was almost finished with the yellow side, but he couldn’t make any progress without messing up the red side. And he didn’t want to do that—the red side was the only one he’d finished. After a few frustrating minutes, he twisted the cube back the way it had been and tossed it onto his desk. God reclined listlessly in his chair. He couldn’t admit it to anyone, but lately he’d been feeling pretty down on himself.

“What the fuck!” God threw up his hands, exasperated. Why was this guy so mad at him? It’s not like he had put the puddle there; puddles were just something that happened when it rained. Honestly, what was he supposed to do? He could say “No more rain,” but that would probably cause even more problems for the humans and make them even angrier. He turned off the computer. Earth was just as frustrating as a Rubik’s Cube. It was impossible to fix something without making another thing even worse. He reached for his beer mug and noticed with mild surprise that it was empty. He cracked open another can and took a giant swig, forgetting about the glass this time. God knew that criticism was part of the job. You couldn’t build something as successful as the world without hearing from some haters. But lately things had gotten out of hand.

pages: 262 words: 65,959

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

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Naturally, this love of puzzles has found its way into various episodes. For example, the world’s most famous puzzle, the Rubik’s Cube, crops up in “Homer Defined” (1991). The episode features a flashback to 1980, the year the cube was first exported from Hungary, when a younger Homer attends a nuclear safety training session. Instead of paying attention to the instructor’s advice on what to do in the event of a meltdown, he is focused on his brand-new cube and cycling through some of the 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations in order to find the solution. Rubik’s Cubes have also appeared in the episodes “Hurricane Neddy” (1996) and “HOMЯ” (2001), and the Rubik’s Cube was invoked as a threat by Moe Szyslak in “Donnie Fatso” (2010). As proprietor and bartender of Moe’s Tavern, Moe regularly receives prank calls from Bart asking to speak with particular people with fictitious and embarrassing names.

The “Donnie Fatso” episode is notable because Moe receives a phone call that is not a prank and not from Bart. Instead, Marion Anthony D’Amico, head of Springfield’s notorious D’Amico crime family, is calling. Fat Tony, as he is known to his friends (and enemies), simply wants Moe to find out if his Russian friend Yuri Nator is in the bar. Assuming that this is another prank by Bart, Moe makes the mistake of threatening the caller: “I’m gonna chop you into little pieces and make you into a Rubik’s Cube which I will never solve!” A more ancient puzzle appears in “Gone Maggie Gone” (2009), an episode that is partly a parody of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. The storyline begins with a total solar eclipse, ends with the discovery of the jewel of St. Teresa of Avila, and revolves around the false belief that Maggie is the new messiah. From a puzzle lover’s point of view, the episode’s most interesting scene concerns Homer, who finds himself trapped on one side of a river with his baby (Maggie), his dog (Santa’s Little Helper), and a large bottle of poison capsules.

pages: 266 words: 80,018

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding

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Accompanying Greenwald was Laura Poitras, also an American citizen, documentary film-maker and notable thorn in the side of the US military. She had been a matchmaker, the first to point Greenwald in the ghost’s direction. The two journalists were given meticulous instructions. They were to meet in a less-trafficked, but not entirely obscure, part of the hotel, next to a large plastic alligator. They would swap pre-agreed phrases. The source would carry a Rubik’s cube. Oh, and his name was Edward Snowden. It appeared the mystery interlocutor was an experienced spy. Perhaps one with a flair for the dramatic. Everything Greenwald knew about him pointed in one direction: that he was a grizzled veteran of the intelligence community. ‘I thought he must be a pretty senior bureaucrat,’ Greenwald says. Probably 60-odd, wearing a blue blazer with shiny gold buttons, receding grey hair, sensible black shoes, spectacles, a club tie … Greenwald could visualise him already.

If the initial meeting failed, the plan was to return later the same morning to the same anonymous corridor, running between the Mira’s glitzy internal shopping mall and one of its restaurants. Greenwald and Poitras came back. They waited for a second time. And then they saw him – a pale, spindle-limbed, nervous, preposterously young man. In Greenwald’s shocked view, he was barely old enough to shave. He was dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans. In his right hand he was carrying a scrambled Rubik’s cube. Had there been a mistake? ‘He looked like he was 23. I was completely discombobulated. None of it made sense,’ Greenwald says. The young man – if indeed he were the source – had sent encrypted instructions as to how the initial verification would proceed: GREENWALD: What time does the restaurant open? THE SOURCE: At noon. But don’t go there, the food sucks … The exchange was faintly comic.

Instead of a key in an eagle’s claws it had a pair of eavesdropping headphones covering the bird’s ears. His co-workers assumed the sweatshirt, sold by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was a joke. There were further hints of a non-conformist personality. Snowden kept a copy of the constitution on his desk. He flourished it when he wanted to argue against NSA activities he felt violated it. He wandered the halls carrying a Rubik’s cube. He also cared about his colleagues, leaving small gifts on their desks. He almost lost his job sticking up for one co-worker who was being disciplined. The RSOC where Snowden worked is just one of several military installations in the area. Displays of US power abound. A giant satellite dish peeks from a hillside. CH-47 Chinook helicopters whump overhead. Camouflage trucks trundle by. Young men and women in uniform drive SUVs, sports cars and motorbikes.

pages: 378 words: 110,408

Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool

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Want to improve your puck-handling skills in hockey? It’s on the Internet. Want to be a better writer? On the Internet. To solve a Rubik’s Cube really fast? Internet. Of course, you have to be careful about the advice—the Internet offers just about everything except quality control—but you can get some good ideas and tips, try them out, and see what works best for you. But not everything is on the Internet, and the things that are may not fit exactly what you’re trying to do or may not be practical. Some of the most challenging skills to practice, for instance, are those that involve interacting with other people. It’s easy enough to sit in your room spinning a Rubik’s Cube faster and faster or to go to a driving range and practice hitting with your woods, but what if your skill requires a partner or an audience?

pages: 360 words: 85,321

The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling by Adam Kucharski

During each round of guessing, Coram randomly switched a couple of the letters in the cipher and checked whether his guess had improved. If a message contained more realistic letter pairings than the previous guess, Coram stuck with it for the next go. If the message wasn’t as realistic, he would usually switch back. But occasionally he stuck with a less plausible cipher. It’s a bit like solving a Rubik’s Cube. Sometimes the quickest route to the solution involves a step that at first glance takes you in the wrong direction. And, like a Rubik’s Cube, it might be impossible to find the perfect arrangement by only taking steps that improve things. The idea of combining the power of the Monte Carlo method with Markov’s memory property originated at Los Alamos. When Nick Metropolis first joined the team in 1943, he’d worked on the problem that had also puzzled Poincaré and Borel: how to understand the interactions between individual molecules.

165–166, 167, 171, 190 limitations of, 190 memory and, 180–181 newsfeeds and, 122, 133–134 in poker, 135–136, 149–150, 151, 153, 154, 161, 163, 167–168, 172, 173, 175, 176–177, 182, 184, 185–189, 190, 192–196, 212, 217 rock-paper-scissors and, 178, 180–181 stock/financial markets and, 113, 115, 117–120, 122, 123–124, 129–130, 131–132 teaching themselves, 151, 176–177, 190 training, 155, 168, 174, 175, 176, 188 vulnerabilities in using, 118–119 rock-paper-scissors, 142–143, 178, 180–181 roll downs, 29–32, 33 rollovers, 29, 33–34, 204 roulette, 1, 197 bias in, 6, 7 control over events in, 199 evolution of successful strategies in, 21–22, 208 factors restricting scientific betting in, 22 fading of data availability limitations in, 73 gambling law and, 200 and lotteries, biased view of, 98 and luck, 202 and the Monte Carlo fallacy, 6, 200 randomness and predictions in, 2, 3–4, 5–8, 9, 10–11, 12–13, 14, 15–20, 21–22, 38, 124, 127, 162, 178–179, 202, 210–211, 212, 218 scientific idea inspired by, 217 spin stages, 16 university courses studying, 215 Roulston, Mark, 204 Rubik’s Cube, 63 Rubner, Oliver, 78 Rugby World Cup, 84 rule-based approaches, 149, 151, 153, 176 Rutter, Brad, 165–166 S&P 500, 121 sabermetrics, 209 Salganik, Matthew, 203 San Francisco Giants, 88 Sandholm, Tuomas, 167, 184, 189, 212 scandals, 90 Schaeffer, Jonathan, 154, 155, 156, 158, 160, 167, 168, 177, 190 Science (journal), 160, 188 scouting, 105 scratchcards, 26–28 screen scraping, 86 “Searching for Positive Returns at the Track” (Bolton and Chapman), 46 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 130 security casino, 2, 20, 21, 22, 40, 73, 197, 213 online, 195 Selbee, Gerald, 30, 33 “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” 9, 10 Shannon, Claude, 11–12, 12–13, 14, 15 sharps, 102, 107 Shaw, Robert, 14, 22 short stacking strategy, 193 shuffling cards.

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

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This ad copy transforms the alchemy of Morgellons into a magic trick: examined close-up, our most ordinary parts—even the surface and abrasions of our skin—become wild and terrifying. My name is automatically entered in the lottery, along with all the other conference attendees, and I end up winning a miniscope. I’m sheepish headed to the stage. What do I need a scope for? I’m here to write about how other people need scopes. I’m given a square box a bit smaller than a Rubik’s Cube. I imagine how the scene will play out later tonight: examining my skin in the stale privacy of my hotel room, coming face to face with that razor’s edge between skepticism and fear by way of the little widget in my palm. At the bottom of my sheet of jokes, the title—You might be a morgie if—is given one last completing clause: “you laughed out loud and ‘got’ these jokes.” I remember that early e-mail—topic of the biggest joke in the world—and see why these jokes might matter so much—not simply because they resonate, but because they reclaim the activity of joking itself.

“Well then,” Laz smiles. “Guess I’ll smoke the last quarter of this one.” He finishes the cigarette and then tosses it into our cooking fire, where it smokes right into our breakfast. I am aware that Laz has already been turned into a myth, and that I will probably become another one of his mythmakers. Various tropes of masculinity are at play in Laz’s persona—bad-ass, teenager, father, demon, warden—and this Rubik’s cube of grit and edges seems to be what Barkley’s all about. I realize Laz and I will have many hours to spend in each other’s company. The runners are out on their loops anywhere from eight to thirty-two hours. Between loops, if they’re continuing, they stop at camp for a few moments of food and rest. This is both succor and sadism; the oasis offers respite and temptation at once. It’s the Lotus Eater’s dilemma: hard to leave a good thing behind.

pages: 252 words: 72,473

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil

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CHAPTER 2 SHELL SHOCKED: My Journey of Disillusionment CHAPTER 3 ARMS RACE: Going to College CHAPTER 4 PROPAGANDA MACHINE: Online Advertising CHAPTER 5 CIVILIAN CASUALTIES: Justice in the Age of Big Data CHAPTER 6 INELIGIBLE TO SERVE: Getting a Job CHAPTER 7 SWEATING BULLETS: On the Job CHAPTER 8 COLLATERAL DAMAGE: Landing Credit CHAPTER 9 NO SAFE ZONE: Getting Insurance CHAPTER 10 THE TARGETED CITIZEN: Civic Life CONCLUSION Notes About the Author When I was a little girl, I used to gaze at the traffic out the car window and study the numbers on license plates. I would reduce each one to its basic elements—the prime numbers that made it up. 45 = 3 x 3 x 5. That’s called factoring, and it was my favorite investigative pastime. As a budding math nerd, I was especially intrigued by the primes. My love for math eventually became a passion. I went to math camp when I was fourteen and came home clutching a Rubik’s Cube to my chest. Math provided a neat refuge from the messiness of the real world. It marched forward, its field of knowledge expanding relentlessly, proof by proof. And I could add to it. I majored in math in college and went on to get my PhD. My thesis was on algebraic number theory, a field with roots in all that factoring I did as a child. Eventually, I became a tenure-track professor at Barnard, which had a combined math department with Columbia University.

This drama pushed me quickly along in my journey of disillusionment. I was especially disappointed in the part that mathematics had played. I was forced to confront the ugly truth: people had deliberately wielded formulas to impress rather than clarify. It was the first time I had been directly confronted with this toxic concept, and it made me want to escape, to go back in time to the world of proofs and Rubik’s Cubes. And so I left the hedge fund in 2009 with the conviction that I would work to fix the financial WMDs. New regulations were forcing banks to hire independent experts to analyze their risk. I went to work for one of the companies providing that analysis, RiskMetrics Group, one block north of Wall Street. Our product was a blizzard of numbers, each of them predicting the likelihood that a certain tranche of securities or commodities would go poof within the next week, the next year, or the next five years.

pages: 260 words: 77,007

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-Like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You ... Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy by William Poundstone

Lowen published a general solution for optimal slicing of a cube into N × N × N cubelets. They assured any practical-minded readers that their method might “have important applications in the cheese and sugarloaf industries.” This question loosely recalls another posed in interviews at some financial firms: How many cubes are in the center of a Rubik’s Cube? Since the standard cube is 3 × 3 × 3, the fake-out answer is “one.” Anyone who’s ever disassembled a Rubik’s Cube knows the real answer is “zero.” There’s a spherical joint in the middle, no cubelet. ? There are three boxes, and one contains a valuable prize; the other two are empty. You’re given your choice of a box, but you aren’t told whether it contains the prize. Instead, one of the boxes you didn’t pick is opened and is shown to be empty.

pages: 390 words: 108,811

Geektastic: Stories From the Nerd Herd by Holly Black, Cecil Castellucci

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For the next four hours I watch her face as she teaches herself thousands of years of astronomical history. I watch as the patterns of the stars take up residence inside her head. When she turns the last page, she pushes the book into my hands. “Thank you, Peter,” she says so earnestly I want to scoop her up and run around the field with her. So I do. In her eighth grade yearbook, Wendy Mass was bestowed the dubious honor of Most Likely to Solve Rubik’s Cube because she spent so much time fiddling with it instead of paying attention in class. Always fascinated by the night sky, she took Astronomy 101 in college. It was so complicated that she never got higher than 45 out of 100 on any exam. Fortunately, neither did anyone else and the professor graded on a curve. She got an A! She loves writing about astronomy now, and tries to make it so easy to understand that the reader will fall in love with it, too.

She loves writing about astronomy now, and tries to make it so easy to understand that the reader will fall in love with it, too. Wendy is the author of eight novels for young readers, including A Mango-Shaped Space (about a girl with synesthesia), Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Every Soul a Star, and Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall. She lives in northern New Jersey, where she can be found staring up at the sky with her telescope, or down at the ground with her metal detector, hoping to find gold. She can do Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes. Text by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. Illustrations by Hope Larson. IT’S JUST A JUMP TO THE LEFT by libba bray “How did she get ahead of us?” Agnes whispered to Leta. “I can’t believe her. She came earlier than us on purpose,” Leta said. Five people up in the line, Jennifer Pomhultz, in a rabbit-fur jacket and side ponytail, executed a perfect step-ball-change while her older sister and a handful of others applauded.

pages: 329 words: 93,655

Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer

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I typed in “highest IQ,” “intelligence champion,” “smartest in the world.” I learned that there was someone in New York City with an IQ of 228, and a chess player in Hungary who once played fifty-two simultaneous blindfolded games. There was an Indian woman who could calculate the twenty-third root of a two-hundred-digit number in her head in fifty seconds, and someone else who could solve a fourdimensional Rubik’s cube, whatever that is. And of course there were plenty of more obvious Stephen Hawking types of candidates. Brains are notoriously trickier to quantify than brawn. In the course of my Googling, though, I did discover one intriguing candidate who was, if not the smartest person in the world, at least some kind of freakish genius. His name was Ben Pridmore, and he could memorize the precise order of 1,528 random digits in an hour and—to impress those of us with a more humanist bent—any poem handed to him.

By the end of my three days in Tallahassee, Tres had collected seven hours of audiotaped data for Ericsson and his grad students to analyze later. Lucky them. And then there were the extensive interviews conducted by another graduate student, Katy Nandagopal. Do you think you have a good natural memory? (Pretty good, but nothing special.) Did you ever play memory games growing up? (Not that I can think of.) Board games? (Only with my grandmother.) Do you enjoy riddles? (Who doesn’t?) Can you solve a Rubik’s cube? (No.) Do you sing? (Only in the shower.) Dance? (Ditto.) Do you work out? (Sore subject.) Do you use workout tapes? (You need to know that?) Do you have electrical wiring expertise? (Really?) For someone who wants to know what’s being done to him so that he might someday tell other people about it, being the subject of a scientific study can be exceedingly trying. “Why exactly are we doing this?”

pages: 189 words: 40,632

That Sugar Book: This Book Will Change the Way You Think About 'Healthy' Food by Damon Gameau

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You can see that I virtually swapped healthy fats for sugar-laden products. New research suggests that the calories from sugar, and fructose in particular, behave very differently from other calories (see here for a more detailed explanation). UNDERSTANDING INSULIN Before we find out the details of what sugar did to my body, we need to talk about insulin. For a non-scientist, insulin is the Rubik’s Cube of hormones. I am not even going to pretend to understand all of its functions. I do know, however, that it controls what our body does with the food we eat, deciding whether to burn it for energy or to store it (this is known as ‘fuel partitioning’ in science speak). Insulin and glucose (the sugar that most foods break down to) have a very close relationship. Insulin is vital for clearing glucose out of our bloodstream, either by allowing it to pass more easily into our muscle, organ or fat cells to use for fuel, or by using it to build glycogen, which can be thought of as a spare battery to call on when we need energy.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

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On Airport Pickup Duties “My flight lands at nine-thirty on Sunday…. You want to watch what? What the fuck is Mad Men? I’m a mad man if you don’t pick me the hell up.” On Built-Up Expectations “Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn’t stand for shit. Just sat there. Big letdown.” On Canine Leisure Time “The dog is not bored. It’s not like he’s waiting for me to give him a fucking Rubik’s Cube. He’s a goddamned dog.” On Talking Heads “Do these announcers ever shut the fuck up? Don’t ever say stuff just because you think you should. That’s the definition of an asshole.” On Long-Winded Anecdotes “You’re like a tornado of bullshit right now. We’ll talk again when your bullshit dies out over someone else’s house.” On Today’s Hairstyles “Do people your age know how to comb their fucking hair?

pages: 402 words: 110,972

Nerds on Wall Street: Math, Machines and Wired Markets by David J. Leinweber

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These were typically the brainstorms of people who knew just enough about AI to be dangerous. They believed what the software vendors told them: AI would lead them to the holy grail. 2. Use every conceivable esoteric AI technique, now. These were typically the brainstorms of people without a clue about finance. They were entirely capable of convincing themselves that a program that could solve Rubik’s Cube would be a great options trader. Unfortunately, they were often a little fuzzy on exactly what an option was. In designing MarketMind (and later QuantEx), the goal was not to use AI for its own sake, but rather to apply AI techniques where they could be used appropriately and within their limits to provide an advantage over conventional technologies. A clue to the question of how to apply AI in trading is found by looking at the many thousands of electronic trading support systems that were already in use.

These include many serious and useful applications, such as fault medical diagnosis, configuring complex systems, and process control. They also include a number of less serious (but mathematically interesting) problems like how to arrange n queens on an n-by-n 168 Nerds on Wall Str eet square chessboard so no queen attacks another, many variations of the “missionaries and cannibals” and “monkeys and bananas” problems, and the aforementioned Rubik’s Cube. These clever programs used a very general symbolic pattern-matching technique, called Rete matching, which was a central element of the expert systems tools being promoted as “this year’s breakthrough of the century” in the mid-1980s. However, this sophisticated pattern matching is complex, requires an astonishing amount of computer power, and is only marginally relevant to the types of chart scanning real traders do.

pages: 613 words: 151,140

No Such Thing as Society by Andy McSmith

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In 1979, this shop was the first in the UK to introduce scanners that read the barcodes on certain products, starting with Melrose tea bags. In 1980, barcodes spread for the first time beyond the grocery trade, when they were introduced by WH Smith. For male university students, the most interesting innovation of 1980 was the noisy, bulky Space Invaders machines that turned up in every student bar. For teenage schoolchildren, the biggest intellectual challenge of 1980 was trying to solve Rubik’s Cube. This new craze was a three-dimensional puzzle, devised in the 1970s by a Hungarian sculptor and licensed by Ideal Toys in 1980, comprising six faces covered with nine stickers in six different colours, which could be turned independently, mixing the colours to one of 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations. The challenge was to turn them back again so that each face was a solid colour once more.

pages: 458 words: 137,960

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Users could now teleport back and forth between their favorite fictional worlds. Middle Earth. Vulcan. Pern. Arrakis. Magrathea. Discworld, Mid-World, Riverworld, Ringworld. Worlds upon worlds. For the sake of zoning and navigation, the OASIS had been divided equally into twenty-seven cube-shaped “sectors,” each containing hundreds of different planets. (The three-dimensional map of all twenty-seven sectors distinctly resembled an ’80s puzzle toy called a Rubik’s Cube. Like most gunters, I knew this was no coincidence.) Each sector measured exactly ten light-hours across, or about 10.8 billion kilometers. So if you were traveling at the speed of light (the fastest speed attainable by any spacecraft inside the OASIS), you could get from one side of a sector to the other in exactly ten hours. That sort of long-distance travel wasn’t cheap. Spacecraft that could travel at light speed were rare, and they required fuel to operate.

A millisecond later, I was standing inside a vintage 1980s phone booth located inside an old Greyhound bus station. I opened the door and stepped out. It was like stepping out of a time machine. Several NPCs milled around, all dressed in mid-1980s attire. A woman with a giant ozone-depleting hairdo bobbed her head to an oversize Walkman. A kid in a gray Members Only jacket leaned against the wall, working on a Rubik’s Cube. A Mohawked punk rocker sat in a plastic chair, watching a Riptide rerun on a coin-operated television. I located the exit and headed for it, drawing my sword as I went. The entire surface of Middletown was a PvP zone, so I had to proceed with caution. Shortly after the Hunt began, this planet had turned into Grand Central Station, and all 256 copies of Halliday’s hometown had been scoured and ransacked by an endless parade of gunters, all searching for keys and clues.

pages: 434 words: 135,226

The Music of the Primes by Marcus Du Sautoy

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In 1735, Euler wrote that ‘So much work has been done on the series that it seems hardly likely that anything new about them may still turn up … I, too, in spite of repeated effort, could achieve nothing more than approximate values for their sums.’ Nevertheless, Euler, emboldened by his previous discoveries, began to play around with this infinite sum. Twisting it this way and that like the sides of a Rubik’s cube, he suddenly found the series transformed. Like the colours on the cube, these numbers slowly came together to form a completely different pattern from the one he had started with. As he went on to describe, ‘Now, however, quite unexpectedly, I have found an elegant formula depending upon the quadrature of the circle’ – in modern parlance, a formula depending on the number π = 3.1415 … By some pretty reckless analysis, Euler had discovered that this infinite sum was homing in on the square of π divided by 6: The decimal expansion of , like that of π, is completely chaotic and unpredictable.

It’s not the most obvious idea to come to mind. This sort of discovery is very different to the thunderbolt discovery of the Riemann Hypothesis or Gauss’s discovery of a connection between primes and logarithms. The Lucas—Lehmer test is not a pattern that will emerge through experiment or numerical observation. They discovered this by playing around with what it means for 2n − 1 to be prime, continually turning the statement like a Rubik’s cube until suddenly the colours come together in a new way. Each turn will be like a step in the proof. Unlike other theorems where the destination is clear from the outset, the Lucas—Lehmer test ultimately emerged by following the proof without quite knowing where it was going. Lucas had begun turning the cube but Lehmer successfully brought it into the simple form used today. While he was cracking the German Enigma codes in Bletchley, Turing discussed with his colleagues the potential for machines, similar to the bombes they had built, to find large prime numbers.

pages: 176 words: 54,784

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

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Yet she’s scared to death of pushing her children away, scared to the point of asking, “How do I ask them to move out?” These are VCR questions. From the outside, the answer is simple: just shut up and do it. But from the inside, from the perspective of each of these people, these questions feel impossibly complex and opaque—existential riddles wrapped in enigmas packed in a KFC bucket full of Rubik’s Cubes. VCR questions are funny because the answer appears difficult to anyone who has them and appears easy to anyone who does not. The problem here is pain. Filling out the appropriate paperwork to drop out of med school is a straightforward and obvious action; breaking your parents’ hearts is not. Asking a tutor out on a date is as simple as saying the words; risking intense embarrassment and rejection feels far more complicated.

pages: 201 words: 64,545

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

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We failed to provide the proper training for the new company leaders, and the strain of managing a company with eight autonomous product divisions and three channels of distribution exceeded management’s skills. We never developed the mechanisms to encourage them to work together in ways that kept the overall business objectives in sight. Shooting line at Lago Fagnano. Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Don’t try this with dentures! Doug Tompkins Several planning efforts had to be aborted; no one could solve the Rubik’s cube of matching market-specific product development with such a complex distribution mix. Organization charts looked like the Sunday crossword puzzle and were issued almost as frequently. The company was restructured five times in five years; no plan worked better than the last one. At one point we decided we needed another perspective, and Malinda and I, along with our CEO and CFO, sought the advice of a well-regarded consultant.

pages: 220 words: 75,651

The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman

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The constant music and explosions from the television stupefied me and everyone else. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go. No one read, and passengers barely spoke; on a bus your seat holds you prisoner. My seatmates were a string of Marias—people traveling unbelievably long rides for short visits with family or for work. Vendors swarmed on board at every stop, hawking grilled corn and hot sodas and Rubik’s Cubes. “Jugo! Cola! Esta bien!” A stream of salesmen got on, talked and talked, holding up bottles of little green pills or small pieces of candy. “My product is better!” they all said, walking down the aisle, now filled to standing room only, passing out samples, talking some more, then collecting a few coins or taking the samples back. The thought of selling penny candies or medicines on a moving bus was impossible to imagine; day after day after day, the same spiel, all for pennies.

pages: 238 words: 73,824

Makers by Chris Anderson

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The kids were happy enough to open the Lego Mindstorms box and assemble the starter robot, a three-wheeled rover, but once we plugged in the batteries they could barely hide their disappointment. Hollywood, it turns out, has ruined robotics for kids: they expect laser-armed humanoid machines that can transform into trucks. Meanwhile, after an hour of assembly and programming, the Mindstorms rover could only roll forward and bounce feebly off a wall. We looked online to see what others were doing with Mindstorms, and saw that hobbyists had already made everything from robotic Rubik’s Cube solvers to working photocopiers. We wanted to invent something new, but there was no way we could do that sort of thing, or anything even close to it. The kids lost interest after lunch. Okay, there was always the plane. On Sunday we took it to a park. I tossed it in the air and promptly flew it into a tree. The kids just looked at me, equally appalled by my lack of ability and the gap between my promise of how cool the plane would be (and the spectacular YouTube videos of aerobatics we’d watched) and how uncool it had actually turned out to be.

pages: 247 words: 81,135

The Great Fragmentation: And Why the Future of All Business Is Small by Steve Sammartino

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All the things we did know about were hokey and local, or the same thing our entire nation knew about because the tastemakers decided to make it, advertise it and pay the price to put it on the retailers’ shelves. Only the tastemakers could afford the reach that goes with mass. We got to choose one of the options available on the shelf. We got to choose one of the few shows on free-to-air television. The system didn’t support niche like it does now. The cultural phenomena that resulted from the system were powerful indeed. The Rubik’s cube, breakdancing, BMX bikes, cabbage patch dolls, sitcoms, teenage mutant ninja turtles, video cassette recorders, the walkman, aerobics, legwarmers, Coke vs Pepsi, Band Aid, hair metal, Beverly Hills Cop, Nintendo, PAC-MAN and glow worms were all picked by someone else, someone who decided we needed them to enhance our human existence. And they were right. Of course we wanted them. We wanted to express our human emotions and this was what was available at the time.

pages: 232 words: 77,956

Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else by James Meek

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The piloti – stilt-like struts cut in from the building’s outside edge at ground level – of the high towers are shared with Le Corbusier’s modernist étalon, the Marseille Unité d’Habitation (which is smaller), but the most striking feature of the blocks, to the non-architect, are the superfluous details that depart from Le Corbusier’s functional modernism: the flying cornices, concrete frames like giant handles that jut from the tower roofs, and the frog-green bosses studding the beige brick façades. The initial effect is of some vast, elegant set of combination locks, or duochrome Rubik’s cubes, poised at any moment to whirr and counterspin, floor by floor, to trigger the catch on some deeper, hidden secret. Yet familiarity humanises it. You become aware not only of how soaked in light it is but of the architects’ legacy to the people who live there. Close to Roman Road is a crescent of red brick bungalows for the elderly, grouped around a garden with a fountain and a bronze sculpture by Elizabeth Frink, The Blind Beggar and His Dog.

pages: 255 words: 77,849

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

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I don’t want to be thirty-eight and so obsessed with twittering at my followers (whom I have NEVER MET) and getting poked at that I lose the ability to really LIVE. Please remember that you were very happy before you got into all this techno-business. You may bang on about how I need to learn things from the future, but you’d do very well to learn a few things from the past. And if you really want some kind of technology, what’s wrong with the Rubik’s cube? That is HARD. *punches air, collapses exhausted to the floor* Phew! Gosh, that was a jolly good bit of public speaking, wasn’t it? I’m very talented. I am clearly wasted as an office manager and should defo-pants be prime minister. ‘You can learn from the past.’ I like that. I am pleased with that and I am glad I have made my point. ‘We must remember to also learn from the past.’ Yes, that’s great.

pages: 238 words: 75,994

A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh

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He actually seemed somewhat taken aback when I explained that I was interested in his work from an architectural point of view. Rather, Alizade works in the niche world of the design of safe rooms—more popularly known as panic rooms. Alizade greeted me at the front door in jeans and a half-zip black fleece sweater. He is built more like a linebacker than a businessman. He is stout, broad-shouldered, and has large hands; he gestured with them often as he spoke, twisting and turning them as if solving an invisible Rubik’s Cube in order to explain how his products were made. Despite his chosen field of security design and his physical resemblance to someone more likely to be leading tours through the Alaskan outback, he is jovial, prone to quick jokes and laughter. After graduating with an engineering degree from Auburn University, and following a stint in Vietnam, Alizade joined the New Jersey State police force.

pages: 223 words: 77,566

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

But there is also recognition of my own limitations and my willingness to separate myself from Mom when engagement means too little money to pay my own bills or too little patience left over for the people who matter most. That’s the uneasy truce I’ve struck with myself, and it works for now. People sometimes ask whether I think there’s anything we can do to “solve” the problems of my community. I know what they’re looking for: a magical public policy solution or an innovative government program. But these problems of family, faith, and culture aren’t like a Rubik’s Cube, and I don’t think that solutions (as most understand the term) really exist. A good friend, who worked for a time in the White House and cares deeply about the plight of the working class, once told me, “The best way to look at this might be to recognize that you probably can’t fix these things. They’ll always be around. But maybe you can put your thumb on the scale a little for the people at the margins.”

pages: 552 words: 168,518

MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams

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It turns out that scientific openness is expanding way beyond papers and even data to the very building blocks of life itself, all thanks to a burgeoning field called synthetic biology that applies engineering principles to building new biological systems ranging from food to fuel to medicine. That’s a pretty big idea, so here are the basics. Imagine that all of life’s complexity could be boiled down to a library of interoperating components. The basic fundamentals of life, all indexed, open to the public, and waiting to be reassembled into new creations in the same fashion as one might twist and scramble a Rubik’s cube. Call it the open-source library of life. Now picture an Olympic-size gymnasium full of lab students building new organisms and life forms. It’s not a science fiction movie; it’s for real. And every year since 2004, thousands of lab students from around the world gather at MIT for the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition. Once there, they spend the entire summer building biological systems from standardized parts and then operating them in living cells.

The bottom line is that the opportunity to bring customers, suppliers, and other third parties into the enterprise as co-creators of value presents one of the most exciting, long-term engines of change and innovation that the world has seen. But innovation processes will need to be fundamentally reconfigured if businesses and other organizations are to seize the opportunity. Just as you can twist and scramble a Rubik’s cube, customers and other collaborators will reconfigure and build on your products and services for their own ends. And whether we’re talking about government, health care, education, or beyond, static, immovable, noneditable items will be anathema—ripe for the dustbins of twentieth-century history. 2. RETHINK THE COMMONS In this book we have argued that all organizations should abandon their fortress mentality and open up, not only by communicating pertinent information to stakeholders, but also by sharing some of their assets, within their business network or beyond.

pages: 685 words: 203,949

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin

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Students who were stymied by a calculus problem the day it was presented are able to solve it more easily after a night’s sleep than an equivalent amount of waking time. New information and concepts appear to be quietly practiced while we’re asleep, sometimes showing up in dreams. A night of sleep more than doubles the likelihood that you’ll solve a problem requiring insight. Many people remember the first day they played with a Rubik’s Cube. That night they report that their dreams were disturbed by images of those brightly colored squares and of them rotating and clicking in their sleep. The next day, they are much better at the game—while asleep, their brains had extracted principles of where things were, relying on both their conscious perceptions of the previous day and myriad unconscious perceptions. Researchers found the same thing when studying Tetris players’ dreams.

., 191–92 Randi, James, 253, 346 randomization, 349 random sequences, 226–27 rare events, 256, 385–96 RBC Royal Bank, 274 reCAPTCHAs, 118–19 recency effect, 55, 408n56 regret, 264–66 rehearsal, 68–69, 374–75, 408n56 Reithofer, Norbert, 284 reminders, 124–25, 213, 301 Rentfrow, Jason, 196, 305, 376 representativeness heuristic, 228–29 research ethics, 348–49 resource limitations, 11, 19–20 risk assessment, 216, 221–22, 238–48, 264–66 Ritalin, 168, 171 Robinson, Marilynne, 375–76 Roman culture, 288 Rosch, Eleanor, 32, 56–57 Ross, Lee, xxii, 146–48, 339–40, 347 Rothbart, Mick, 154, 429n153 Rubik’s Cube, 185 rule of the designated place, 83, 83–86 RxList.com, 342 Sacks, Oliver, 92 Sand, George (Amantine Dupin), 283 Sandberg, Sheryl, 68 Sanger, Lawrence, 331, 333, 472n335 satisficing, 4–5, 276, 312 scheduling, 195–96, 211–14 Shultz, George, 156 Searle, John, 137–39, 141 selective focus, 18, 52, 177 selective migration, 196 selective windowing, 345 self-confidence, 200, 201, 429n153, 444n198 self-discipline, 208 self-presentation advantage, 148 Seneca the Younger, 14 sensory limitations, 165 September 11 terrorist attacks, 52–53, 456n256 serendipity, 377–78 shadow work, 19, 103, 341 Shakespeare, William, 292 Shannon, Claude, 311, 313–14, 316–18 Shapiro, Robert, 122, 124, 299 Shepard, Roger, 22, 58, 294, 304–5 Shinohara, Katsuto, 351 side effects, 231, 234, 239–41, 245–47, 265, 385, 391, 395 Simon, Herbert, 4 Simon, Paul, 73 Simons, Daniel, 12 Simons, Jonathan, 241 situational categories, 62 situational explanations, 145–46 Skinner, B.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

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She looked up at the vultures and immediately realized what was going on, and brought over a giant blue plastic tarp to help me cover Barnaby. We put heavy rocks all around the edges of the tarp and the vultures looked pissed, but I was so grateful I cried. Then I went inside and took a very, very long shower. When I came back out I realized that vultures are surprisingly strong, and that the blue plastic tarp had become a kind of vulture Rubik’s Cube, each of the birds trying a corner to get it all solved. I was having a nervous breakdown, but at least I was bringing the vulture community together. My friend Laura (yes, the same one who’d dragged me to wine country) noticed that my Twitter stream was filled with updates about vultures, and machetes, and dead dogs, and how glad I am that Cartoon Network exists, and so she called. I was all, “I’m fine,” and she very plaintively said, “Well, you don’t sound fine.

pages: 370 words: 97,138

Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey

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Unfortunately, the Volna rocket that was launched from a Russian submarine in June 2005 failed, and Cosmos 1 went to the bottom of the Barents Sea.17 Solar-sail development has continued, but the ambitions and the size of the sails have been scaled back. A team from NASA built NanoSail-D, based on the CubeSat specifications. CubeSat is a miniaturized satellite designed to spur space research by using standard components and off-the-shelf electronics. A CubeSat is a bit bigger than a Rubik’s Cube—10 centimeters on a side and weighing less than 1.3 kilograms. Most CubeSat launches have come from academia, but companies such as Boeing have built CubeSats, and amateur satellite builders have gotten their projects off the ground using crowdfunding campaigns on websites such as Kickstarter. NASA’s NanoSail-D was designed to use three CubeSats to de- ploy triangular sails totaling 10 square meters.

pages: 292 words: 97,911

Truths, Half Truths and Little White Lies by Nick Frost

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Something always needs to be on. *** Back home, high and cocky from my brush with the law, I poke my head around the door to the lounge and Mum and Dad are sat in silence, telly off. How long had they been there? How long were they planning on being there? In the middle of the room, in the middle of our mint-green carpet, was a giant lump, my giant lump of hash. It looks exactly like a brown Rubik’s cube but obviously a lot easier to solve. Trouble now breaks out. Not a row, just a kind of Category C rumble with a drug pro and con to-and-fro-type parent deal. To be fair they make a compelling argument but I’m high, the guys are waiting, and I’d like to be higher. My counter comes in the shape of a rat out. I decide to point out to Dad that me and Mum have indeed smoked hash together. This should relieve some of the pressure.

pages: 325 words: 110,330

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

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Rich Moore, whose first animated feature for Disney was Wreck-It Ralph, likens the Braintrust to a bunch of people who are each working on their own puzzles. (Since John and I took over at Disney Animation, that studio has adopted this tradition of candor as well.) Somehow, and perhaps especially because they have less invested, a director who’s struggling with his own dilemmas can see another director’s struggles more clearly than his own. “It’s like I can put my crossword puzzle away and help you with your Rubik’s Cube a little bit,” is how he puts it. Bob Peterson, a member of the Braintrust who has helped write (and provide voices for) eleven Pixar films, uses another analogy to describe the Braintrust. He calls it “the grand eye of Sauron”—a reference to the lidless, all-seeing character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—because when it focuses on you, there’s no avoiding its gaze. But the Braintrust is benevolent.

pages: 250 words: 87,722

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

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This emphasis on speed was absurd: No matter how fast the investor moved, he would never outrun the high-frequency traders. Speeding up his stock market order merely reduced the time it took for him to arrive in HFT’s various traps. “But how do you prove that a millisecond is irrelevant?” Brad asked. He threw the problem to the Puzzle Masters. The team had expanded to include Larry Yu, whom Brad thought of as the guy with the box of Rubik’s cubes under his desk. (The standard 3x3-inch cube he could solve in under thirty seconds, and so he kept it oiled with WD-40 to make it spin faster. His cube box held more challenging ones: a 4x4-incher, a 5x5-incher, a giant irregularly shaped one, and so on.) Yu generated two charts, which Brad projected onto the screen for the investors. To see anything in the stock market, you have to stop trying to see it with your eyes and instead attempt to imagine it as it might appear to a computer, if a computer had eyes.

pages: 364 words: 99,897

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

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His task was simple: identify ways in which the information environment might be enhanced for Marines on the ground in isolated parts of Afghanistan, so that the Marines kill more Taliban fighters and the Taliban fighters kill fewer Marines. The captain and his colleagues got behind a technology from Palantir, a Palo Alto–based company named after the Palantiri all-seeing stones in Lord of the Rings. The company is run by Alex Karp, an eccentric Stanford social theory PhD whose hobbies include solving Rubik’s Cubes and qi gong meditation. Karp was a student under Jürgen Habermas, the German philosopher and sociologist famous for his notion of the public sphere and its importance as a free discussion forum where public opinion is formed. From 2005 to 2008 the CIA was Palantir’s sole customer. Since 2010, Palantir has also designed software systems for the NSA, the FBI, and the US military. Palantir specializes in data management, transforming massive and often messy data into visualized maps and charts.

pages: 389 words: 109,207

Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street by William Poundstone

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Shannon was a perfectionist who did not like to publish unless every question had been answered and even the prose was flawless. Before he’d moved to MIT, Shannon had published seventy-eight scientific articles. From 1958 through 1974, he published only nine articles. In the following decade, before Alzheimer’s disease ended his career all too decisively, the total published output of Claude Shannon consisted of a single article. It was on juggling. Shannon also worked on an article, never published, on Rubik’s cube. The open secret at MIT was that one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century had all but stopped doing research—to play with toys. “Some wondered whether he was depressed,” said Paul Samuelson. Others saw it as part of an almost pathologically self-effacing personality. “One unfamiliar with the man might easily assume that anyone who had made such an enormous impact must have been a promoter with a supersalesman-like personality,” said mathematician Elwyn Berlekamp.

pages: 307 words: 102,734

The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River by Dan Morrison

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Meanwhile, the people are cutting down more and more of the trees to cook their supper. While rainfall causes things to be green, it’s also true that green—trees and grasses—sustains rain through the humidity it creates, and with fewer trees there’s less rain. And fewer clouds mean there’s more sunshine, more evaporation. It’s the same phenomenon that turned the Sahara from a savanna to desert.” “One hell of a Rubik’s Cube,” Schon said, distracted by the relentless flow of boda-bodas, mutatu minivan taxis and lorries. “Thanks, Perfesser.” Omar Wadda greeted us at his plain office and had us sign his guestbook. He was a little stocky, with eyeglasses and a head of receding white hair, and he exuded the easy competence of a career civil servant. He’d been on the front lines of the hyacinth wars in the 1990s, he said, when the weed covered more than ten percent of the lake’s surface, about forty-six square miles.

pages: 289 words: 85,315

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh

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They became widely known as the ‘Questions of the Sphinx’, on account of the large prizes offered to anyone who could master them. Strangely this autobiography was written in 1928, seventeen years after Loyd’s death. Loyd passed his cunning on to his son, also called Sam, who was the real author of the book, knowing full well that anybody buying it would mistakenly assume that it had been written by the more famous Sam Loyd Senior. Loyd’s most famous creation was the Victorian equivalent of the Rubik’s Cube, the ‘14–15’ puzzle, which is still found in toyshops today. Fifteen tiles numbered 1 to 15 are arranged in a 4 × 4 grid, and the aim is to slide the tiles and rearrange them into the correct order. Loyd’s offered a significant reward to whoever could complete the puzzle by swapping the ‘ 14’ and ‘15’ into their proper positions via any series of tile slides. Loyd’s son wrote about the fuss generated by this tangible but essentially mathematical puzzle: A prize of \$1,000, offered for the first correct solution to the problem, has never been claimed, although there are thousands of persons who say they performed the required feat.

pages: 462 words: 172,671

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin

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private boolean setArgument(char argChar) throws ArgsException { ArgumentMarshaler m = marshalers.get(argChar); if (m == null) return false; try { if (m instanceof BooleanArgumentMarshaler) setBooleanArg(m, currentArgument); else if (m instanceof StringArgumentMarshaler) setStringArg(m); else if (m instanceof IntegerArgumentMarshaler) setIntArg(m); } catch (ArgsException e) { valid = false; errorArgumentId = argChar; throw e; } return true; } --- private void setBooleanArg(ArgumentMarshaler m, Iterator<String> currentArgument) throws ArgsException { try { m.set(”true”); catch (ArgsException e) { } } Didn’t we just put that exception processing in? Putting things in so you can take them out again is pretty common in refactoring. The smallness of the steps and the need to keep the tests running means that you move things around a lot. Refactoring is a lot like solving a Rubik’s cube. There are lots of little steps required to achieve a large goal. Each step enables the next. Why did we pass that iterator when setBooleanArg certainly doesn’t need it? Because setIntArg and setStringArg will! And because I want to deploy all three of these functions through an abstract method in ArgumentMarshaller, I need to pass it to setBooleanArg. So now setBooleanArg is useless. If there were a set function in ArgumentMarshaler, we could call it directly.

pages: 476 words: 132,042

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

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The way we can use technologies to increase choices for others is by encouraging science, innovation, education, literacies, and pluralism. In my own experience this principle has never failed: In any game, increase your options. There are two kinds of games in the universe: finite games and infinite games. A finite game is played to win. Card games, poker rounds, games of chance, bets, sports such as football, board games such as Monopoly, races, marathons, puzzles, Tetris, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, sudoku, online games such as World of Warcraft, and Halo—all are finite games. The game ends when someone wins. An infinite game, on the other hand, is played to keep the game going. It does not terminate because there is no winner. Finite games require rules that remain constant. The game fails if the rules change during the game. Altering rules during play is unforgivable, the very definition of unfairness.

pages: 460 words: 122,556

The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein

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Greenspan replied that he wouldn’t have been able to get it through Congress. ak The Wall Street Journal sharply opined, “The Treasury Secretary has set a terrible precedent, leaving subordinate debt holders at other large financial institutions to calculate that they too will receive a government bailout if they stumble.” al A graphic depiction of AIG’s corporate structure resembled a financial Rubik’s Cube, with names of subsidiaries stretching thirteen columns across and extending twenty-five rows down. am Dimon, like Thain, had been involved in LTCM, but they were not yet CEOs. an Diamond likened this to a “reverse Spinco.” Instead of spinning off Lehman’s bad assets, as the Lehman bankers had proposed, Barclays would acquire the good assets, leaving a rump collection of toxic loans for the banks.

pages: 458 words: 134,028

Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes by Mark Penn, E. Kinney Zalesne

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In the James Bond movies—beyond the women and the fight scenes—one of the highlights of nearly every film is Bond’s visit to the labs of Agent Q, who shows off the latest technological inventions that (lo and behold) come in perfectly handy later on. And of course, Quincy got all this forensic frenzy started back in the 1970s. And, to be fair, to whatever degree modern generations of kids have grown up on Barbies and fire trucks, they have also grown up on chemistry sets, Operation, Slinkys, and Rubik’s Cube. But without a doubt, in the past fifteen years, science has gotten a big boost. Educators from Carl Sagan to Bill Nye the Science Guy to even Al Gore have done significant work to bring complex science to America in terms and pictures that everyone can understand. And in movies like 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 2001’s A Beautiful Mind, we learned to find math and science geniuses wildly compelling.

pages: 561 words: 114,843

Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website by Matt Blumberg

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Former Quickoffice CEO Alan Masarek on Aligning Resources with Strategy Alan Masarek is one of the most disciplined business operators I know. (Google must have thought so too: they recently acquired his company Quickoffice.) To open this section, I have asked him to talk about the nexus of resources and strategy. The job of a startup CEO is generally tougher than that of running a more established company. Startup CEOs face a veritable Rubik’s Cube of challenges, trying to run companies with constrained resources while operating in developing markets. This fundamental challenge is the essence of what this section attempts to define. Simply stated, how can startup CEOs align their constrained cash and human resources alongside business strategies that will inevitably change as their targeted markets evolve? I believe most CEOs intellectually understand that their targeted market segments will change frequently.

pages: 433 words: 125,031

Brazillionaires: The Godfathers of Modern Brazil by Alex Cuadros

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The first brand belonged to Walter Faria, the second to the Schincariol brothers—some of the first hidden billionaires I uncovered. It wasn’t long before billionaires started showing up in my dreams. Eventually I looked beyond consumer brands. In a downtown subway station, a plaque announced the contractor who had laid the subway line: Camargo Corrêa. In Rio I’d seen a building that resembles grayscale Rubik’s cubes arranged in Jenga stacks midplay. It’s the headquarters of Petrobras, the state oil company, but it was built by a private company known as Odebrecht. Camargo and Odebrecht both were family-owned—and huge, raking in many billions of dollars in revenues each year. I realized I was looking at two of Brazil’s richest families. They made way more money than Eike Batista but were nowhere on the Forbes list.

pages: 397 words: 110,130

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

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“It’s basically the same material they make Lego bricks out of, so it’s pretty tough,” he noted. Kids swarmed around to design their own objects. It’s these kids, who have free time and no preconceptions, who will likely be the ones to domesticate 3-D printing, just as they were the first to domesticate computers, printers, Photoshop, and video-editing software. Over at sites like Shapeways or Ponoko or Thingiverse, creators post designs for everything from iPad racks to Rubik’s Cube–like puzzles. Many are “open,” which means anyone can download them, customize them, and print a copy themselves—learning gradually by remixing existing works, much as we learn to write by copying or imitating others. What literacy will 3-D printing offer? How will it help us think in new ways? By making the physical world plastic, it could usher in a new phase in design thinking. 3-D printers allow us to meditate on physical solutions to physical questions.

The America That Reagan Built by J. David Woodard

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Coke was losing market share to its competitor, so on April 23, 1985, ‘‘New Coke,’’ a sweeter variant on the original, was released with great fanfare. By the middle of June, people were saying ‘‘no’’ to New Coke. The reaction was nationwide, with the recent product called ‘‘furniture polish’’ and ‘‘sewer water.’’ Within weeks ‘‘Coke Classic’’ returned to the market, and the company stock jumped 36 percent. Only in America could a marketing disaster turn into company profit. For entertainment, Americans fooled with Rubik’s Cube, a plastic square with its surface subdivided so that each face consisted of nine squares. Rotation of each face allowed the smaller cubes to be arranged in different ways. The challenge, undertaken by millions of addicts, was to return the cube from any given state to its original array with each face consisting of nine squares of the same color. Kids still rode bicycles around the neighborhood, swam in local pools, and used little CB radios to talk to each other.

pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

I knew that he competed at the national level in mathematical and computing olympiads, which sufficed to attract my attention for a closer look; but I didn’t know yet if he could learn to think about AI. I had asked Marcello to say how he thought an AI might discover how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Not in a preprogrammed way, which is trivial, but rather how the AI itself might figure out the laws of the Rubik universe and reason out how to exploit them. How would an AI invent for itself the concept of an “operator,” or “macro,” which is the key to solving the Rubik’s Cube? At some point in this discussion, Marcello said: “Well, I think the AI needs complexity to do X, and complexity to do Y—” And I said, “Don’t say ‘complexity.’” Marcello said, “Why not?” I said, “Complexity should never be a goal in itself. You may need to use a particular algorithm that adds some amount of complexity, but complexity for the sake of complexity just makes things harder.”

Outside their own professions, people often commit the misstep of trying to broaden a word as widely as possible, to cover as much territory as possible. Is it not more glorious, more wise, more impressive, to talk about all the apples in the world? How much loftier it must be to explain human thought in general, without being distracted by smaller questions, such as how humans invent techniques for solving a Rubik’s Cube. Indeed, it scarcely seems necessary to consider specific questions at all; isn’t a general theory a worthy enough accomplishment on its own? It is the way of the curious to lift up one pebble from among a million pebbles on the shore, and see something new about it, something interesting, something different. You call these pebbles “diamonds,” and ask what might be special about them—what inner qualities they might have in common, beyond the glitter you first noticed.

pages: 728 words: 182,850

Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter

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So when you get stuck on one of these problems even though you’re working in a wider circle, how do you go about getting unstuck? That’s an interesting question. Let me deviate from that slightly and then I’ll come back. Most people are familiar with the scientific method, which is holding everything exactly the same and changing this one thing. This reminds me of people trying to do one side of the Rubik’s Cube. Most of the good methods don’t involve getting any side. That’s the last thing you do. So people get stuck because they don’t want to toss in the towel on the progress they think they’ve made so far. So if you want to make it past one level, you may have to scrap your whole methodology and just start over. And you see that with pizzas. Art begins where engineering ends. Engineering is about taking what’s known and carrying it to its logical conclusion.

pages: 666 words: 181,495

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy

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That hurdle was overcome only because he had gotten the highest recommendation from an early Googler. But Ivester’s experience showed that Google could accommodate exceptions to its standards. Just as in the case of elite institutions, the stray C or a non-Mensa SAT score could be trumped by an accomplishment that indicated that one was special. “It’s like they did some crazy skiing thing or could do the Rubik’s cube better than anybody,” says early employee Megan Smith. Stacy Sullivan could recall having trouble hiring someone in international sales—until she noted that his résumé cited a foosball championship in Italy. “That’s pretty good,” said Sergey. “We can hire him.” If the guy worked that hard at something, the logic went, he’d probably be pretty good at selling ads. And if you were stuck at the airport with him, you’d have the best foosball conversation ever.

pages: 603 words: 182,781

Aerotropolis by John D. Kasarda, Greg Lindsay

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Worth, which laid down most of its seven runways in 1972. The price tag is staggering and the benefits modest—the biggest dig in American history will increase capacity by only 20 percent. While that’s enough to retake the title and reduce delays, the cost-effectiveness of the endeavor seems a bit skewed. Much of the time, energy, and money will be spent on the contortions necessary to solve the airport’s layout like a Rubik’s Cube. The taxpayers won’t foot the bill—not the local ones, anyway. Daley vowed to pay for it all with a mixture of bonds, fees, federal funds, and checks from the airlines, which were crying poverty even before \$150 oil and the recession. With the first \$3 billion in hand, work began on the runways in summer 2007, nearly a year behind schedule and already a billion dollars over budget. I paid a visit to the OMP’s headquarters that spring and discovered a warren of bright and earnest engineers wrestling with manuals a foot thick and spilling over every available surface.

pages: 713 words: 203,688

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough, John Helyar

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Behind his back, the two cousins began to grouse that Kohlberg was holding them back. “Jerry was older, and he never wanted to work as hard,” Roberts recalled. “The reason Jerry was so negative was that he wasn’t reading and understanding what was going on.” As the firm grew—by 1983, it had eight deal makers, by 1988, fifteen—tensions rose. Factions developed. Junk bonds produced an ever more complicated stream of Rubik’s Cube financial structures. Kravis and Roberts were so busy Kohlberg could no longer keep abreast of every deal. Outside parties began shouldering more and more of the daily work, and Kravis and Roberts soon were orchestrating small armies of investment bankers and lawyers. “Jerry began to pull back,” says his longtime friend George Peck, a Kohlberg Kravis consultant. “He was less comfortable with all that.

pages: 272 words: 19,172

Hedge Fund Market Wizards by Jack D. Schwager

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We talked in a conference room that was memorable for its unusual color: orange. When discussing trading strategies, Platt speaks at a speed that is somewhere between a rushed New Yorker and the fast-talking executive in the famous Fed Ex commercial. When the topic of conversation is a four-legged fixed income trade, keeping up with Platt can be a challenge. How did you get interested in markets? I have always liked puzzles. When I was 10 years old, my dad gave me a Rubik’s cube, and 36 hours later, I could do it from any position in under one minute. I always regarded financial markets as the ultimate puzzle because everyone is trying to solve it, and infinite wealth lies at the end of solving it. When you are solving any puzzle, you have to start off from the perspective “What do I know for sure?” Do I have any bedrock to start off my analysis? It’s shocking how little you know for certain in financial markets.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton

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By 2006 he had accumulated over 40,000 mechanical puzzles, thanks in part to the International Puzzle Party, an annual private get-together for mechanical puzzle enthusiasts and traders, which Slocum inaugurated in 1978. In 2006, he donated over 30,000 of the puzzles to the Lilly Library at Indiana University to create the Slocum Mechanical Puzzle Collection. In addition to the staggering number of puzzles, Slocum also donated thousands of books about puzzles. Among the pieces on display (only a few hundred out of the thousands in the collection) are an archaic Rubik’s Cube with differing sizes of nails on each side, called a “texture cube”; a trick cup that seems normal until its drinker fills it too full and it drains away into the base; and more whimsical amusements like a Coke bottle with a wooden arrow through it. There are also countless intricate wooden geometrical curiosities that must be twisted and shifted together and apart. Today, visitors to the library can actually try out a number of the puzzles and see countless others sitting in displays, just waiting to be solved. 1200 East Seventh Street, Bloomington. 39.167906 86.518973 Around 30,000 manually operated mind-benders make up the Slocum puzzle collection.

pages: 855 words: 178,507

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

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She had rapidly mastered trigonometry and integral and differential calculus, and he told her mother privately that if he had encountered “such power” in a Cambridge student he would have anticipated “an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first rate eminence.”♦ She was fearless about drilling down to first principles. Where she felt difficulties, real difficulties lay. One winter she grew obsessed with a fashionable puzzle known as Solitaire, the Rubik’s Cube of its day. Thirty-two pegs were arranged on a board with thirty-three holes, and the rules were simple: Any peg may jump over another immediately adjacent, and the peg jumped over is removed, until no more jumps are possible. The object is to finish with only one peg remaining. “People may try thousands of times, and not succeed in this,” she wrote Babbage excitedly. I have done it by trying & observation & can now do it at any time, but I want to know if the problem admits of being put into a mathematical Formula, & solved in this manner.… There must be a definite principle, a compound I imagine of numerical & geometrical properties, on which the solution depends, & which can be put into symbolic language.♦ A formal solution to a game—the very idea of such a thing was original.

The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise by Martin L. Abbott, Michael T. Fisher

As such, we developed a cube that consists of concepts rather than rules. The cube on its own serves as a way to think about the whys of scale and helps create a bridge to the hows. The cube also serves to facilitate a common language for discussing different strategies, just as physics and math serve as the underlying languages for engineering discussions. Introducing the AKF Scale Cube Imagine first, if you will, a Rubik’s cube or classic colored children’s building block. Hold this imaginary block directly in from of you, or stare down directly at it so that you can only see a single face of the six faces. At this point, the cube is nothing more than a two-dimensional square, similar to the square seen in Figure 22.1. Figure 22.1 Starting Point of the AKF Scale Cube I NTRODUCING THE AKF S CALE C UBE Now take the cube in your hand and rotate it one-eighth of a turn to the left, such that the face to the right of the cube is visible and roughly the same size as the original face you had viewed of the cube.

pages: 913 words: 265,787

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

The geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. We can add that nothing in culture makes sense except in the light of psychology. Evolution created psychology, and that is how it explains culture. The most important relic of early humans is the modern mind. 4 THE MIND’S EYE To gaze is to think. —SALVADOR DALI Past decades had hula hoops, black-light posters, CB radios, and Rubik’s cube. The craze of the 1990s is the autostereogram, also called Magic Eye, Deep Vision, and Superstereogram. These are the computer-generated squiggles that when viewed with crossed eyes or a distant gaze spring into a vivid illusion of three-dimensional, razor-edged objects majestically suspended in space. The fad is now five years old and autostereograms are everywhere, from postcards to Web pages.

pages: 1,797 words: 390,698

Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money, and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan by Lynne B. Sagalyn

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“If this had been surface construction, it would have had coverage as if it were the Hoover Dam,” remarked Denise M. Richardson, executive director of the General Contractors Association. “The engineers were telling us we would be below ground for two to three years and that the public perception would be negative,” Coscia recalled when we spoke; “people would not know that we’re working and spending hundreds of millions of dollars. The site was a Rubik’s cube for years.” Several insiders tried to persuade Governor Pataki to let the agency shut down the No. 1 subway, but the governor was adamant about keeping it running, despite the cost of underpinning the subway to make continuous service possible. Temporarily taking the line out of service would have “cut an important transit link and angered commuters from Staten Island, a Republican stronghold, who use the No. 1 line after getting off the ferry,” David W.

pages: 1,234 words: 356,472

Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

For every tiny motion he made with his flesh and blood hand, the virtual one made a scaled-up movement, allowing him to select and manipulate icons. The system was standard across the Commonwealth, giving everyone who could afford an OCtattoo direct connection to the planetary cybersphere. He guessed that most of the businesspeople having breakfast around him were quietly interfacing with their office arrays. They had that daydreaming look about them. He pulled the appropriate key out of its store in his wrist array, represented by a Rubik’s Cube icon, which he had to twist until he’d arranged the surface squares into the correct pattern. The cube opened up, and he dropped the message icon inside. A single line of black text slid across his virtual vision: PAULA MYO IS ON VELAINES. Adam just managed to hold on to his coffee cup. “Shit!” Several nearby guests glanced over to him. He twitched his lips in an apologetic smile. The array had already wiped the message, now it was going through an elaborate junction overwrite procedure in case it was ever examined by a forensics retrieval system.

Caribbean Islands by Lonely Planet

There’s generally a good bus service on Saturday mornings, but Sunday service is often nonexistent. Buses can get crowded. As more and more people get on, children move onto their parents’ laps, kids share seats, people squeeze together and everyone generally accepts the cramped conditions with good humor. Whenever someone gets off the back of a crowded minivan, it takes on the element of a human Rubik’s Cube, with seats folding up and everyone shuffling; on some buses there’s actually a conductor to direct the seating. For specific details on buses by island, see the chapter Getting Around sections. Car & Motorcycle Driving in the Caribbean islands can rock your world, rattle your brains and fray your nerves. At first. Soon, you’ll get used to the chickens, goats, stray dogs and cows wandering the roadways.

pages: 3,292 words: 537,795

Lonely Planet China (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet, Shawn Low

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Boat tours on the Huangpu River operate from the Pearl Dock (Mingzhu Matou MAP GOOGLE MAP ; 1 Century Ave; tickets ¥100), next to the tower. Shanghai Science & Technology MuseumMUSEUM (Shanghai Kejiguan GOOGLE MAP ; %6862 2000; www.sstm.org.cn; 2000 Century Ave; adult/student/child under 1.3m ¥60/45/free; h9am-5.15pm Tue-Sun, last tickets 4.30pm; mScience & Technology Museum) You need to do a huge amount of walking to get about this seriously spaced-out museum but there are some fascinating exhibits, from relentless Rubik’s-cube-solving robots to mechanical archers. There's even the chance to take penalty kicks against a computerised goalkeeper. Riverside PromenadeWATERFRONT (Binjiang Dadao MAP GOOGLE MAP ; h6.30am-11pm; mLujiazui) Hands down the best stroll in Pudong. The sections of promenade alongside Riverside Ave on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River offer splendid views to the Bund across the way. Choicely positioned cafes look out over the water.