Question Sheet: Play for Science
- Name a game you like to play. What skills do you learn from playing that
- Do you think playing games is good for people, bad for people, or neither?
Explain your reasoning.
- What is a facelet on the Rubik’s Cube?
- How many possible arrangements are there for the facelets on a Rubik’s Cube?
- How did scientists break down the problem of solving the Rubik’s Cube into
- Now that scientists have come up with a solution for the Rubik’s Cube, how
might they apply what they’ve learned in other fields?
- How many possible arrangements are there for the pieces on a checkerboard?
- How did Schaeffer break down his checkerboard problem into two separate
- Why did Schaeffer say, “I’m quite amazed that I had enough patience to stick
- How did both Kunkle and Schaeffer use computers to solve problems?
- In your own words, explain the differences between trying to win a game of
checkers and trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube.
- What do the Rubik’s Cube and a game of checkers have in common?
- How would Schaeffer and Kunkle work on the same problems if there was no
such thing as a computer? Do you think the work would be possible? If so, how
long would it take?
- Kunkle believes the “absolute minimum” of moves on a Rubik’s Cube is just
20, not the 26 moves his program worked out. Why might his team still be six
moves short of the perfect solution, even though they used a powerful computer?
- The researchers who worked on solving checkers and the Rubik’s Cube both
began by limiting the number of possible arrangements. Why might it be useful to
break down a big problem into smaller problems? Could there be limitations to
this type of approach?
- Think of another game or puzzle, besides checkers or the Rubik’s Cube, that
someone could solve using a computer. How might you break down that problem into
smaller, more manageable questions?
- Did this article change the way you think about games and puzzles? If so,
- Team up with a friend. Imagine that one of you is a journalist for a
magazine and the other is Schaeffer. The journalist should interview the
scientist about his work. Now switch. This time, the journalist should interview
Kunkle about his work.
- What strategies does this article use to keep kids interested in the
subject? Find two examples where the author tries to make kids care about this
- Out of the 43 quintillion possible arrangements of the Rubik’s Cube, Kunkle
first found a solution for 600,000 special arrangements. What percentage of the
total were these special arrangements? What fraction of the total were they?
- Likewise, Schaeffer first looked at 39 trillion out of a total of 500
quintillion possible configurations for a checkerboard. What percentage and
fraction of the total did this first round of attempts represent?