Saturday, December 29, 2012

Accepting the Impossible

Puzzling Parables
Part Two
In our second puzzling parable we look at two puzzles that require that we throw off the shackles of what is achievable; our second lesson is 'accept the impossible.

By this I of course mean that you should accept that the circumstances in the puzzle are impossible to reach by usual means, and start working on the unusual.

Mystery puzzles challenge out understanding of the world around us, they present us with a series of circumstances and ask us to either define the series of events that brought about those circumstances, or alternatively task us with achieving a specific end within the parameters given.

We are often presented with circumstances that seem impossible, these puzzles really challenges us for this specific reason. When presented with the impossible we tend to fixate on it, to the exclusion of everything else. Of course this makes solving the puzzle practically impossible.

Here's an example to show you what I mean.

Lateral Thinking
Night Sight

Our Christmas party was cut unexpectedly short this year by that most festive of occurrences, a power cut. Having had nothing to drink I offered lifts to some of my colleagues and we got ready to leave. It was only then that I discovered I had lost my wallet, probably dropped on the floor somewhere.

Being my party-wallet it only had a small amount of cash in it, but it was a nice black leather one and I wasn't prepared to abandon it.

To make matters worse the carpet in the venue was black too, and in the general panic of the power cut it could have been kicked anywhere. No one had anything we could reasonably use as a torch, and in the age of the smoking ban, nobody had any way to generate a flame either.If only I'd put my old retro Nokia phone in there, someone could have rung it - alas not.

Luckily I was able to walk over to where my wallet sat and pick it off the floor with no trouble at all.

How did I manage to find it so easily?

So, how do we go about solving this. First we need to accept the impossible, no-one had any sort of light so let's not waste our time with clever methods of making torches and find a better solution.

Black wallet on a black carpet, no way of shining a light on it, yet clearly it could easily be seen. There's no other way it could have been found. That only leaves one possibility, there must have been another light source in the room.

Ah but there was a power cut, I hear you cry, the lights went out, you said so!

I did, I did, and you are far too wrapped up in the idea of needing an artificial light source, the simple answer is that all this happened at two in the afternoon - in broad daylight.

There is of course a lesson to be learned there too, dont impose conditions on your answer if they weren't stated in the puzzle. Good puzzle setters will close off all false avenues and leave only one possible solution.

Here's another puzzle to tackle which should help you embrace the idea of accepting the impossible.

Logic and
Lateral Thinking
Three Switches

In my basement are three light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Each one is connected to one of three switches in my kitchen. I've no idea which switch operates which bulb as I always turn all three on when I go down, and back off when I come back.

However I'm having some electrical work done and need to work out which switch runs to which bulb. I can't see the bulbs at all from the kitchen and there's only me around to work out which is which. On top of that I absolutely hate the basement, and am only prepared to make one trip down there for this job.

That being said, ruling out some complicated set up with mirrors or cameras, is there a way to correctly label all three switches by making just one trip down to the basement and back again?

One more parable to explore puzzle fans, have a great New Years Eve and keep puzzling!

photo credit: Drunken Monkey via photopin cc

No comments:

Post a Comment