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Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm Not a Sudoku Fan, but….


... if YOU are, head right over to "Wild About Math" blog which is already up with it's third podcast… this time a longer one (49 min.) with Jason Rosenhouse and Laura Taalman, authors of "Taking Sudoku Seriously":

http://wildaboutmath.com/2012/02/24/jason-rosenhouse-and-laura-taalman-inspired-by-math-3/

I've not read the book, but based on Rosenhouse's great "The Monty Hall Problem" (the best treatment of that wonderful puzzle I know of), I feel no hesitation in recommending it sight-unseen. The podcast, by the way, does touch on more things than just Sudoku.

It's always been interesting to me that while I very much enjoy Ken-Ken puzzles, Sudoku has never 'grabbed' me… I don't know if that somehow relates to the fact that Ken-Ken at least requires some arithmetic thinking, whereas Sudoku, unlike first appearances, requires no arithmetic (it is simply the logical manipulation of 9 symbols; it relates to mathematical thinking, but not to "arithmetic" or computation). Any others have a similar experience? or care to comment on what makes Sudoku so addictive for some of you???

Finally, Keith Devlin's wonderful review of the Rosenhouse/Taalman volume is here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577173022950738492.html

Here's one excerpt:
"The authors show vividly that mathematics is really about the power of abstraction, the push to explain as much as possible in the most compact form possible. Numbers and arithmetic are a part of that enterprise, but there is a lot more besides. "Taking Sudoku Seriously" is an excellent vehicle whereby devotees of the puzzle can come to understand the nature of mathematics."
But I love even more a passage from Dr. Devlin that follows the above:
"The puzzle never really interested me. Not because I did not recognize at once its mathematical character. Rather, it didn't offer me anything I did not get from my day job. To me it was mathematics in significantly diminished form. It reminded me of the younger me who loved rock climbing but never enjoyed indoor climbing on artificial walls. Yes, the individual moves were the same, but the climbing wall lacked the grandeur and sense of reality—and truth be told the heightened senses aroused by the slight chance of death—of a genuine rock face.
"In fact, I have never found puzzles satisfying; I always get a far greater thrill from mathematics, which has a rich and deep aesthetics, to say nothing of a huge importance to human life, that puzzles lack, though at a micro level the intellectual challenge is much the same."
Mathematics as 'rock-climbing'... gotta love it!
Anyway, I recommend you read the book, Devlin's review... and "Wild About Math" blog!

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