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## World's Oldest Puzzle Solved78

An anonymous reader observes: "The Loculus of Archimedes, the world's oldest puzzle, has been solved. It has 536 solutions. You can find the details here."
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## World's Oldest Puzzle Solved

• #### Eureka! (Score:2, Funny)

Is this the part where Ed Pegg gets to run through the streets naked?
• #### Thank you, Bill Cutler... (Score:2, Funny)

My life is complete. I may now die in peace.
• #### I thought (Score:1)

that the world's oldest puzzle was how they got that filling inside of Combo's.
• #### I thought (Score:1)

...it was the age old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?
• #### Re:I thought (Score:3, Informative)

The egg. Dinosaurs had eggs. They didn't have chickens back in those days.
• #### Re:I thought (Score:1)

What came first, the dinosaurs or the eggs?
• #### Re:I thought (Score:1)

All arguements about the existence of evolution aside, I agree completely. I've been saying that forever. After I say that, they look at me like "a chicken egg you dope!" To which I respond, "how do you define a chicken egg? An egg containing a chicken, or laid by a chicken?" Naturally, it is quite easy to determine which came first, once that is defined.

On a similar vein, it is either 1/2 full or 1/2 empty, depending on whether it in the process of being filled or emptied, although getting to the o
• #### is it just me ? (Score:1)

i dont even understand the goal, much less how to go about "solving it". this is some seriously arcane shit. any geniuses out there care to bring it down to sub-dumb level for me ?
• #### it's pretty simple really (Score:2, Informative)

Solving it = putting all the peices together to make a rectangle. The guy who did it simply wrote a computer program to try all possible solutions and record the correct ones (i.e ones that turned out a rectangle) Really it's like solving a puzzle.
• #### Re:it's pretty simple really (Score:3, Informative)

More precisely, when the article talks about solving the puzzle, they mean finding all the possible solutions, not just one.
• #### Re:it's pretty simple really (Score:1)

then it would seem that it is a really simple puzzle to do once. there are 14 pieces of cardboard in front of me and I have to arrange them to form a rectangle. that seems too easy. (finding all combos would not be easy though). Is this what they spent their time doing back then ;)
• #### Re:it's pretty simple really (Score:3, Insightful)

You would be amazed how not-easy it is to find even one solution for most people. Try this with the loculus, or with a set of tangrams, or with a set of pentominoes (which can be fit into, and cover completely, any rectangle of area 60 with both sides at least 3 units long).
• #### Re:it's pretty simple really (Score:2)

A square rather than a rectangle. There are a lot of 6*24 rectangles not in this list, and perhaps some other shapes.
• #### Wrong...this is older (Score:5, Funny)

on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:38AM (#7499612) Homepage
1. Billy Og:
2. "So, Mr. Pterodactyl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a -- " *CRUNCH*.
• #### Computation (Score:5, Interesting)

on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @12:50AM (#7499679)
Isn't it amazing that a computer could compute in minutes what has taken humans thousands of years to solve? We're in a time in which the sheer calculating power of computers can predict stress and failure in complex structures (FEA), lift and drag of fluid flows (CFD), and even the way a polypeptide will fold into a protein.

If computers can do all this and solve puzzles that have plagued our minds for centuries, where will the limit be? Perhaps one day the effect of a drug in a patient or the release of software into a market will be fully simulated through computation.

We will soon be replacing our market analysits and physicians with programmers!

• #### Re:Computation (Score:4, Interesting)

on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @01:04AM (#7499776)
While I want to belive what you say, I must point out that you are making a mistake. This puzzle is purely logical (mechanical)...the things you mention (market economics and human-drug interaction) are organic in nature...

Computers are good at doing mechanical computations, but we have yet to perfect computation of organic systems...as a matter of fact, some would say it's impossible.
• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

Years ago, people might have argued that the bewilderingly complex chemical reactions that occur in our bodies were impossible to understand because they are somehow out of our logical grasp.

Computational Biology [cornell.edu] now allows us to take our genetic code and develop 3-dimensional models of the enzymes that regulate 9 out of 10 reactions in our bodies.

Perhaps some systems are infinitely more complex than others, but none is organically impossibly to characterize.

After all, as Edward O. Wilson argues, Biolo

• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

There's a huge gap between modeling an enzyme and developing a drug inside of a computer...how do you know when a new pain medicine adversely effects the liver?
• #### Re:Computation (Score:3, Insightful)

You build a simulation [heise.de]. Right now this is still in its infancy, and these systems obviously have to prove their worth by producing accurate results, but virtual organ simulation is where things are headed.

It's very likely we won't have the computing power available to simulate these accurately for another 20 years - but so far there doesn't seem to be anything that would prevent you from, in principle, modeling organs on a sub-cellular basis and obtaining a reasonable simulation of their macroscopic behav
• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

Yep. More to the point, the simulations we already have are a hell of a lot better than human intuition when it comes to predicting side effects. (Or primary effects, for that matter.) Drug discovery has undergone a quiet revolution in the last decade or so: it's largely switched over from the old "shotgun" approach -- "here's an interesting chemical from this fungus/herb/frog, let's see what it does inside a rat with cancer" -- to a tailored approach in which new drugs are built up molecule by molecule
• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

Can you elaborate on what you mean by organic? Do you mean complex systems that follow complex rules?
• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

When was the last time you knew of a group (people or otherwise) to follow a predetermined set of rules outside of the lab??? It's around us every day...then again, I guess the RIAA planed for CDs to lead to massive digital piracy...

And if you say that doesn't count, then I don't want you developing any drugs I'm going to be taking...
• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

We DO follow a set of predetermined rules, they are just far more complex.

Unless you believe there is something inherently "magical" about human beings (i.e., we have a soul) then we are simply following the laws of physics which determine how the matter and energy in our bodies will behave.

Does that mean we could simulate human society? Maybe. The effects of the uncertainty principle, quantum mechanics, random radioactive decay etc. mean that you can't do it perfectly, but how well you can do it depend
• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

Unless you believe there is something inherently "magical" about human beings (i.e., we have a soul) then we are simply following the laws of physics which determine how the matter and energy in our bodies will behave.

To say that we "follow" the laws of physics gives a misleding connotation. Physical "law" decribes how things act, it doesn't determine how things act.

If there were something about human beings such that the matter that makes up our bodies behaved differently than matter ourside of bodie

• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

Sure. I was quoting OneFix when he spoke of organic systems. I took the word "organic" to mean very complex systems.

You see, people have a misconception that the world can be divided into natural and manmade. It's an easy mistake to make that is ingrained in our way of thinking. Look at foods and cosmetics being touted as "organic" or "natural" when they really just mean that humans haven't screwed around with what was already there. If something is 'organic' or 'manmade', it's still a physical system

• #### Re:Computation (Score:2, Funny)

We will soon be replacing our market analysits and physicians with programmers!

No, we'll be replacing them with programs.

• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

No, we'll be replacing them with programs.

This reminds me of the "Doctor" on Voyager.

But seriously, I think that this will be the case. There is no compensation required by a diagnostic program. How long until there is enough computing power for your initail health screening to be performed by a computer program? Productivity-wise and cost-wise, this is most likley where we are headed. I see some form of this happening in my lifetime.

• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

There is no compensation required by a diagnostic program.

That's easily remedied by a suitable license agreement.
• #### Re:Computation (Score:3, Insightful)

The only catch is that we humans have to have a pretty good understanding of a problem/puzzle/whatever in the first place in order to program a computer to solve it. The limit still really is us humans, that is unless we develop true AI, which I really think is impossible because of what I just said.
• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

Isn't it amazing that a computer could compute in minutes what has taken humans thousands of years to solve? We're in a time in which the sheer calculating power of computers can predict stress and failure in complex structures (FEA), lift and drag of fluid flows (CFD), and even the way a polypeptide will fold into a protein.

And still can't do a 3D model of a supernova explosion. Heck, TWO dimensions is still really pushing it. There are a lot of problems that Moore's law won't catch up with for quite som

• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

True. I mean, who really wants to render Jurassic Park on a bunch of 4004s, right? Nope, we had to wait for SGI Irixes and the like. Time will come my friend, with all these teraflop processors I keep hearing about when such a model is more than possible.
• #### Re:Computation (Score:5, Insightful)

on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @02:49AM (#7500274) Journal

Isn't it amazing that a computer could compute in minutes what has taken humans thousands of years to solve?

And yet humans can solve in minutes some things which a computer couldn't solve in a thousand years.

• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

And yet humans can solve in minutes some things which a computer couldn't solve in a thousand years.

And I have proof [hotornot.com]!
• #### Re:Computation (Score:2, Insightful)

Isn't it amazing that a computer could compute in minutes what has taken humans thousands of years to solve? We're in a time in which the sheer calculating power of computers can predict stress and failure in complex structures (FEA), lift and drag of fluid flows (CFD), and even the way a polypeptide will fold into a protein.

I will be more amazed when a computer actually comes up with its own algorithms to solve those problems. As it stands now, a computer only crunchs numbers once it's given a very s

• #### They already are (Score:3, Interesting)

There has been a lot of developement into finding self solving systems. Here is an article to get you started, then just follow google.
• #### Re:They already are (Score:2)

OH yah, and here [slashdot.org] also.
• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

RTFA.

"The world's oldest puzzle finally has a complete answer. Bizarrely, it really wasn't that hard. None of these solutions would be particularly hard to find. Most of them are easily derived from other solutions, by swapping, reflecting, and rotating various sections. With a systematic approach, I'm sure that Archimedes, or anyone following him, could have listed all the distinct solutions within a few weeks of work."
• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

We will soon be replacing our market analysits and physicians with programmers!

Just like market analysts replaced 'pure luck' and 'guessing' and just like physicians replanced 'religious belief' and 'priests'.

Without computer, we might _never_ been able to solve these problems? Isn't that cool? We finally can move on to tougher stuff.

Or IHBT?
• #### Re:Computation (Score:2)

Isn't it amazing that a computer could compute in minutes what has taken humans thousands of years to solve?

Humans did solve the puzzle...we just used a better tool.

We will soon be replacing our market analysits and physicians with programmers!

• #### Re:Computation (Score:1)

It can beat the game, but it can't create it.
• #### Re:Computation (Score:2, Interesting)

"Perhaps one day the effect of a drug in a patient or the release of software into a market will be fully simulated through computation."

In the 60's I was a programmer/statistician with no medical background for a large group of physicians engaged in clinical trials of cancer chemotherapy. I created a simulation model of the human blood system that was able to predict the future toxic effects of the chemotherapy after only a few doses.

The doctors rejected it because I was not a doctor. My theory was con

• #### "solve" it? (Score:1)

I couldn't be less interested in the notion that a computer barfed out all possible solutions. Somehow I imagine we are being denied the real interesting part of this. What seems interesting is the parts mentioned about how certain pieces were always found in a pair. I'd also be interested in how one solution maps into another solution. What clumps and individual parts can be interchanged. Also, someone should do one that fits on the surface of a sphere. (though, probably already been done)
• #### WRONG (Score:5, Funny)

on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @02:07AM (#7500102) Journal
Every one knows the world's oldest unsolved puzzle involves women!!
• #### Re:WRONG (Score:2, Funny)

Everyone knows the world's oldest unsolved puzzle involves women!!

Replace the word involves with is
• #### Thanks for nothing! (Score:5, Funny)

on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @02:11AM (#7500124)

Thanks for ruining it for me! I'd only made it to the 535th solution! =p

• #### so this is basically... (Score:1)

like the three-color problem. we replace patience and time with a computer. nifty, perhaps even useful, but not very interesting, from a mathematical or even an artificial intelligence perspective.
• #### Re:so this is basically... (Score:1)

Dude, it's four colors not three.

• #### Same "kind" of idea, but different problem. (Score:2, Insightful)

The four color problem is a lot different than this puzzle because you have to define your shapes (topological relationships) in addition to checking properties of "joining them up"
• #### Re:so this is basically... (Score:1)

FYI, it was the _four_ colour problem.

Quick summary:

What is the minimum number of colours one can use to colour a map, with no two adjacent sections sharing the same colour?

It was (supposedly) proven by a computer algorithm going through all possible configurations. (In the ~1800 range, I'm told)

Of course, some mathematicians summarily rejected this as proof. (It is experimental proof.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four%20color%20theo re m
• #### Where the hell did all the geeks go? (Score:1, Offtopic)

The actually interesting articles like this one and the other science/engineering ones get like a dozen comments with most of them by drunk slashdot addicts who post for the sake of posting, while MicroGates-"look, I'm Neo" and fucking software pseudo-politics seems to catch all the interest on this site with two, three, even five hundred comments a piece (not to mention all of the "OMG! I just saw Gates/RIAA/Darth Vades smiling at me in my monitor" fucking panic-attack YRO claptrap). Where did all the geek
• #### Do as I say, not as I do. (Score:3, Insightful)

It would probably help your cause if you commented on the article, and posted your take on it, rather then engaging in an offtopic rant against the people you're so pissed off about. You could actually be engaging in thoughtful discourse, rather than furthering the problem that so vexes you.
This is just as offtopic as the parent, and I was going to post anon, but fsck it. Put it in your journal pally.
• #### Re:Where the hell did all the geeks go? (Score:2)

As someone who has been reading /. for years and years, I completely agree with you. And I'd love to know the answer. /. used to be proper geek fun. It seems to have lost something as it's grown up from the dotCom boom. Unfortunately all the geeks have gone without so much as a "so long, and thanks for all the fish!" so they can't tell us where they went.

Does anyone else know where they are?

P.S. - whilst I'm on a rant, when are we going to bring back segfault?????
• #### hmmm (Score:1)

I think a more interesting tangram/tessellation problem would be the following. How should one divide a square into N pieces to maximize the number of unique solutions in which to arrange the pieces to reform the square? You could restrict the problem in various ways, like prohibiting annulus-like pieces. Anyone know if this has been done?
• #### On to the next challenge (Score:1)

It will apparently take close to 400 more years before someone solves the Loculus of Borg.

Wait -- I've just been informed that it's actually Locutus (with a t) and definitely not a puzzle. Never mind then. We'll not even concern ourselves with that.

• #### Can we guess the original cuts? (Score:3, Insightful)

on Tuesday November 18, 2003 @09:18AM (#7501216)
There may be 536 solutions, but the original creator started with a single solution in the form of the original pattern and order of cuts. We may never know the exact order and pattern of cuts that created the puzzle, but I'd bet we can guess how most people would attempt to create such a puzzle.

For example the fact that the vast majority of 536 solutions are bilaterally symmetric suggests that the first cut in the creation of the puzzle was right down the middle. I'd also wager that cuts that bisect fragments are more likely than cuts that nick a fragment. Such straight-line, bisecting cutting behaviors are more likely than cutting polygons out of the middle of the whole square.

It may be a math puzzle solved by a computer, but I wonder if we can learn something about how people think from it.
• #### Re:Can we guess the original cuts? (Score:3, Insightful)

For example the fact that the vast majority of 536 solutions are bilaterally symmetric suggests

But the bilateral symmetry also explains its own frequency: each solution for the left half forms a complete solution when paired with any solution for the right half (assuming they use disjoint sets of pieces, if I understand the rules of the game properly).
• #### Re:Can we guess the original cuts? (Score:2)

But the bilateral symmetry also explains its own frequency: each solution for the left half forms a complete solution when paired with any solution for the right half (assuming they use disjoint sets of pieces, if I understand the rules of the game properly)

Very good point. Assuming the pairing that you describe, bilateral symmetry would multiply the number of seemingly unique solutions by a factor of 8.

Even so, only 48 of the solutions lack the bilaterally symmetric 2-rectangle construction. 488 sol
• #### Puzzle list/book (Score:2)

Ok, so does anybody have a suggestion for a book or list of "classic" puzzles like this that might be fun to solve with computers/programming (doesn't matter if they have already been solved), that don't require more than basic high school math. I'm basically looking for something fun to do when I'm bored, but that will also keep my programming and problem solving skills up.

The other day I wrote a complete (and I think optimal) word-search puzzle solver (final solution relied on standard iteration interfa
• #### Oh... (Score:1)

I thought it was the one about the man going to saint Ives. Man I still cant figure that one out. Any idea when it will be solved?
• #### Serious Question: (Score:2)

What, exactly, am I supposed to learn from solving a puzzle like this?

• #### Actually... (Score:2)

536 distinct solutions

Including mirror and rotation, there are 666 distinct solutions. I think we've found or anti-christ.
• #### There are older puzzles (Score:2)

Has anyone solved the Stonehenge puzzle? I bet most people don't even realise it's a puzzle.

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