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3 Riddles  (View post)

dinah [PersonRank 0]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
11 years ago13,480 views

for #2, is the distinctive image already part of the table (carved into it or something like that) so that the rice naturally settles around the pre-existing image?

Father Ted [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Josh is holding the camera the wrong way around?

Nathan [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

#3 They both had Facebook accounts which the agency checked up beforehand... ;)

Andrew [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

The solution is the same for all of them: perform the action and observe the results. If the results do not match the desired outcome, destroy the universe. The set of remaining universes will be only those in which these inexplicable coincidences have occurred.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

> is the distinctive image already part of the table

No, not in particular. The table might have certain surface structures, but the shaking created a rather random pattern.

> Josh is holding the camera the wrong way around?

No...

Rory Parle [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Andrew has it: no matter how probable or improbable an event, after the fact the probability that it did occur is either zero or one.

mc [PersonRank 3]

11 years ago #

it's confirmation bias or surviourship bias. You run lots and lots of experiments, and note the few amazing anecdotes without mentioning their rarity

Julien [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

Rory + Andrew: Could you explain that in more detail? I don't get it.

Abhishek [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

3rd riddle

possibility 1:
the two already know each other and the dating site asks them to play this game so that they can show a higher success rate. may be they pay couples who are about to get married to claim that they found each other on the dating site.

possibility 2:
the two know each other but had a fight and are randomly surfing the dating site for comfort. when they start chatting they get to know each other better, eventually they ask each others names and realizing that the fight was stupid and they are meant to be they get married.

Casey [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Melly is psychic. Her spirits told her the right answer.

Rob Sledd [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

I'm with mc on this one. They are possible because there is a probability that all of them will randomly happen. If you want to reproduce results, reproduce the situation over and over until it happens again.

Abhishek [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

1st riddle:

She is a lip reader and read his lips when he was mumbling and writing the number down.

She noticed what number he wrote down from for 20/10 vision :)

She found the piece of paper on which the number was written.

or there is a 3rd person involved who acts as the spy to help her guess the correct number.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

MC is correct, that is part of the answer.

So – what exactly might have happened? And how would you be able to reproduce this hypothetical experiment?

Hint: Each hypothetical experiment conducted utilized the same basic technology/ approach.

Abhishek [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

also all three riddles are solved if we can build a time machine and go back in time for the events to re-occur exactly the same way.

macbeach [PersonRank 6]

11 years ago #

First of all is this three riddles or one? Are we looking for an explanation for each, or a single explanation for all?

For the second two, human subjectivity is the explanation. We often see what we expect to see or want to see. This is the reason for double-blind studies.

This could be the explanation for the first as well, if those are digits of the fellows phone number or some other sequence that he might be known to use.

Jason [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

#1 they agreed on the number beforehand

#2 get the rice slightly damp, sprinkle iron shavings on it and toss it on the table. under the table are magnets in the configuration of a human eye.

#3 they are co-dependent and impulsive, plus the guy is ugly but rich and the girl is beautiful and poor

Abhishek [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

i agree with mc on the 1st and 3rd but the 2nd one is next to impossible. i dont think the 2rd one has a finite number of possibilities.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

> First of all is this three riddles or one? Are we
> looking for an explanation for each, or a single
> explanation for all?

They all have a very similar explanation, using the same technology/ approach.

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

[Up] blogoscoped.com/forum/117987.h ...

I love that show!!!

Clever Ridddles... I was like...there could be no explanation...

Kasparov [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

#1 Frank wrote the answer on a semi transparent paper... or Melly observed how the pen moves while Frank was writing the number... and she got it..

#2 Josh has trained a lot, and knows the effect of shaking a table from side X by force Y having a group of rice on that side, what will happen...
so, he had a look on how they were randomized... and started to make specific shakes to get his distinctive drawing...

#3 if the dating agency if on an offline site, then it's so easy to track ur customers while they are leaving... the first thing you can get (more than what they already have provided you) is their pic... you can send a spy after them.... get their car model, get the house address, ask their neighbors about their habits... etc

dinah [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

The tellers of these kinds of riddles usually mean them in the same way as an illusionist means "how did i do it." By which I mean, there's an objective secret which, if known, would make it all obvious. I reject this as silly for hypothetical riddles. I take them to mean: what is a solution that matches all the given criteria. For this version, there are valid reasons above by several different people.

Also, following my answer to #2 about table indentions being responsible for the rice picture, I'll say that #1 is the same "technology": Frank wrote a number and Melly did a table rubbing of the indentaions left by the pencil's/pen's pressure.

Both are reproducible

Matt Cutts [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I'm in the camp that says "it was a coincidence. If you want to repeat the coincidences, run the situation lots of times and you'll see coincidences happen again."

Lee [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

The explanation is simple.
They are all possible even if improbable.

FOR [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

Quoting MC:
> it's confirmation bias or surviourship bias. You run lots and lots of
> experiments, and note the few amazing anecdotes without mentioning
> their rarity

And then, for Philipp's following question:
> So – what exactly might have happened? And how would you be able
> to reproduce this hypothetical experiment?

Maybe a simple observer is the 'technology'. An observer records the experiment. It is possible each experiment was 'run' only once, and we are reading the results, or each experiment was run a large number of times, and we're reading only part of the records.

In the first case, my lesson would be that running an experiment (read: Test, I'm a software developer after all) only once is of limited (if not nil) value.
In the second case, my lesson would be that limited information is of limited value (e.g.: reading the result of one test run out of a million gives me one millionth of the value, if not less, that I could get from reading all of them).

In short: get a continuous integration system, and apply good TDD practices ?

F.O.R.

Floris Fiedeldij Dop [PersonRank 2]

11 years ago #

The lack of education is obviously showing here.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

(I'm away for a bit so new hints and confirmations will lag. And yes, theoretically different solutions are possible, so I won't say what Dinah and others said is wrong or illogical... it's not, in fact I'm surprised by the many possible smart solutions :)!)

Adam Fearsome [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

These are the types of things that happen when "they" are messing with the matrix.

John Honeck [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I'd say that those three situations were the outcomes of many many iterations that may or may not have happened not mentioned in the riddle, they were just a select.

1. Many other guesses were/could have been wrong.
2. Most of the rice splatters looked like nothing.
3. Thousands of other matches didn't work out.

It's like the video on the news at night of the high school student making the 3/4 court shot at the buzzer to make the winning points. You see that one outcome, but it doesn't mean that anything other than chance was the reason it was made. Give 100 other chances the same kid would probably miss.

tlh [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

1) It wasn't her first guess, it was her 2,632nd guess.
2) The table is shaped like an eye
3) There is nothing improbably here, two people decide that they are matched because they are matched, or get tired of looking and adjust their standards to match the person that they just met (perhaps their 2,632rd?).

Scot Wingo [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Black Swan

mc [PersonRank 3]

11 years ago #

well, in terms of a basic technology to do it, you use a random number generator, and something to spot when it's been sucessful

In the first example to generate random numbers, the computer can check if you've been succesful

In the second example, your random number generator is pixels, not rice, and an person (or smart program) spots identifiable images from the noise to get the successful outcomes

In the third you randomly match people on your dating site. Testimonials are your evidence of success

Andrew [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Julien: There are two major competing interpretations of quantum mechanics that attempt to explain the phenomenon of wavefunction collapse. There's the Copenhagen interpretation which is nondeterministic and kind of boring, and then there's the Many Worlds Interpretation which basically says every time you collapse a wavefunction (a sort of quantum mechanical coinflip) the universe branches such that where there was one before you now have two: a heads universe and a tales universe. And what do all of these vagaries and oversimplifications have to do with your question?

Basically, there is considerable scientific thought behind the possibility that this universe is not the only one, and that there are very nearly infinitely many like it in slightly differing ways. Thus, whenever you undertake a 'random' activity like throwing some rice on a table, there are universes in which the extremely unlikely outcome of the result looking like a human eye will occur. Destroying all of the universes in which this does not happen is a bit harder, but you could achieve a similar outcome for the observer by resorting to quantum suicide. If he shoots himself in the head immediately after seeing that the rice doesn't look anything like an eye, he will only live on to observe in the universes where it does. Unless Copenhagen was right, in which case he's just dead.

George R [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

If 30000 people independently try to guess a number between 1 and 10000 there is about a 95% chance one of them will guess the right answer.
A similar principle applies to riddle 2 and 3, but the chances are unstated.
If riddle 2 had produced an image of some other object that would also seem unusual.
Riddle 3 is not too different from claims of marketers and advertisers.

Saeed A [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

I was about to write something and as I scrolled to the bottom realized that tlh was on the same page but I would go further group them ALL together under one "technology".

There was 2,632 attempts for all three riddles.

1) She guessed 2,632 times
2) He threw the rice 2,632 times
3) That was the 2,632rd match attempt.

This theory cannot be disproved as being a possibility.

Juan Sagasti [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

- All three events are possible but improbable.
They can be achieved by brute force, i.e. repeat the experiment until it gives the proper results. This usually takes a long time.

If you want to reproduce them in short time:
Use spam to achieve an electronic version of #1 (1st mail asking to guess a number, 2nd mail answering a random number)

Run a massive contest in youtube.com to achieve #2

For #3 write an article in any women magazine and you'll get lots of similar stories.

Amit Mittal [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

The 'eye of rice' is not an unusual occurrence and can be easily duplicated. Put soft sand, talc or other uniform powder in between some sheets of plexiglass and hit it with a rubber mallet or even your finger. The talc will take on the shape of the vibrations though the glass... and you'll most likely see 'the eye' within just a few whacks

There is an exhibit at the Exploratorium in San Francisco with the same phenomenon in actoin.
exploratorium.edu/
maps.google.com/maps?hl=en& ...

Sam Davyson [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I've got no new ideas to add... just want to say thanks to Philipp for the riddles to think about... I can't wait to see what the answer is.

psiloiordinary [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Step one – create universe
Step two – wait for planet with 6 billion human beings to appear (penchant for self delusion, ignorance of the law of large numbers is assumed in this methodology)
Step three – place an advert asking for amazing coincidences to be submitted with a prize offered
Step four – pick the best three from the hundreds you receive
Step five – do blog posting . . .

Julien [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

I think there may be a point to these questions. Let me try and guess what it is:

We have a hard time believing #1 (the number guessing) because it's highly improbable, as well as #2, which is almost impossible. And yet when we hear #3, we see it as evidence of "soul mates" or whatever. The last one we somehow believe because it's less mathematical and more human... or something.

InsaneNinja [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

all 3 can be solved by one answer

mind control!!

1. she made him pick that number
2. joe was made to think it was an eye
3. the dating agency is owned by a mind master!!!

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Repeat the experiments until what you describe happens. Then playback the recordings (recreate the reality).

Josh Meyer [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

That's how the internet works. The only stories that become popular are the coincidences. You don't hear about all the times that someone guessed the number incorrectly, or spilled rice and no picture appeared, or used a dating service that didn't work out.

Maël Primet [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

#1. They are husband and wife. The number is the PIN of the husband.

#2. If you splatter rice on a table, it forms a gaussian, then if you shake the table in a certain direction it forms an oval that is reminiscent of an eye

#3. If they contacted the same dating agency there are chances they belong to similar social circles and there are chances that they please each other,

in other words, those situations are the same, because chance is absolutely not involved in any one of them

Josh Meyer [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

...so to recreate it, you just google for those types of events.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

OK, you all basically guessed it by now! Many interesting answers. Specifically, this is what I wrote down as solutions before (it's too specific to be guessed precisely, so it's just for reference):

Answer 1: Melly and Frank were teamed up together in a chat room on a website which simultaneously allowed 10,000 players to play the "guess the numbers game." In every other game round, many thousands lose the "guess the number" game but for many rounds there is also a winner or a couple of winners, like Melly and Frank.

Answer 2: Josh was part of a group of 10,000 people who each conducted the rice-pattern photography experiment, uploading it to a website. The community of the site then voted for the photo which had the most eye-like shape. A few of the 10,000 photos had eye-like shapes, including the one by Josh.

Answer 3: The dating agency randomly throws together 10,000 users every day in an online chat room, forming pairs of two. They each log-in to the chat with their names, hence that is all the agency has in regards to their profile. Most of the random pairs don't fit well and part ways soon thereafter, but sometimes, couples end up meeting, and sometimes get married. Becky and Norman were among the rare lucky ones.

In other words, if you have a website with 10,000 or so helpers/ users (that may be the number if your site or experiment is on the Digg frontpage, for instance), you may be able to reproduce all these 3 outcomes – and many more different ones that I didn't think of, but that maybe you can think of.

map [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

lots of people are on the right track here. to answer the question ("how are these phenomena possible?") in a different way, maybe you could say: "because they are each represent one of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of possibilities."

map [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

oh duh, sorry, i wrote that not realizing that phillip had written the exact same thing above me.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I have a similar problem every time I make a pizza. It ends up looking like an eye, or like the Virgin Mary or something and I have to auction it on eBay and make myself a new one.

Monkey [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

I know someone who knows the exact answer to all 3 riddles – it's the monkey who typed up all works of Shakespeare after hitting random keyboard keys for a very long time.

See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite ...

Stefan van Overtvelt [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

[put at-character here] #2

I think he made the table tremble. Wave theory tells us that there will be places on the table that tremble harder and other places where there's almost no trembling. the rice will gather in those last kind of places. Depending on the form, material and tremblesource (place) it will make different drawings...

Check:

+ Show video

Armand Asante [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

Frank, Josh and Betty are google-generated AI's that pass the Turing test. sorta.

However if you specify the random seed they're using you can pretty much predict everything they're going to say.

A second alternative:
The other characters are google AI's. They've amassed so much information about you and can parse it so well they can predict your every move.
It's the humans who pass the reverse-Turing test by being oh-so-predictable.

Mike Schmitt [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

I agree with others, that the "law of large numbers" is sufiicient to explain all three cases.
Have 10,000 pairs of people each make one guess. The likelihood that one or two of them will hit a correct guess is amazingly high.
Have 10,000 guys dump bags of rice on the table, and have each report and photograph what the rice formations look like (though i can think of a way of duplicating something specific – whether it works or not, i'm not sure)
Survey 10,000 couples who were matched by a particular online dating service, with little or no profile information.

About the "rice eye" – My thought is that if you took water, or perhaps some light vegetable oil, and drew the shape of an eye on the surface of the table, using your finger, beforehand, such that the lines of dampness are light but definitely present, perhaps enough rice would stick to the wet areas to make a decent pattern. The problems, of course, are that water would dry rather quickly, and that either one of the liquids would probably be visible to an onlooker, under any reasonable circumstances.

zmk [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

I would say that besides LLN one should consider two other things. First is Hawthorne effect, i.e. the objects of a study are aware they are being studied which results in a biased outcome. Secondly there might be many other experiments conducted only once, but these 3 had interesting results. None of these results tells you anything about the reality (it is only one observation). The fact that we consider them improbable is our preconcieved idea about what is and what isn't probable.

B [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

> In every other game round, many thousands lose the "guess the number" game but for many rounds there is also a winner or a couple of winners, like Melly and Frank

Phillip: using the Pigeon Hole Principle
   math.uci.edu/~mathcirc/math194 ...
   one can modify just a little bit the situation in order to garantee success in every round.

INFORMANT [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

But what do they all specifically have in common? That is easy. Google has complete data on Melly, Frank, Josh, Becky and Norman including all of their communications.

Julien [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

Google FTW!

david [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

What else is possible?

Chris [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

And yet another riddle emerges... is there ever an answer to a riddle? The answer was given but rejected. Soon, the "answer" will be buried amongst thousands of additional comments. Will the 2,632nd comment or the 10,000th comment be the right answer?

JS [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

> i agree with mc on the 1st and 3rd but the 2nd one is next to
> impossible. i dont think the 2rd one has a finite number of
> possibilities.

success in 1 to 10 chance – call it luck
success in 1 to 1 000 chance – call it coincidence
success in 1 to 1 000 000 chance – call it miracle
success in 1 to 10^100 – call it impossible

Or call it statistics... all of it...

Mike Schmitt [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

for the record, i didn't see philip's "answer" before posting my own – but i feel slightly goofy now that i see how closely his preceeded mine :-P

Jan Kees [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Morphic fields, in other words: it was hanging in the air.
Nothiong mindboggling, this shit happens all the time to me.
//takes a drag from his bong//

Mike Matthews [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

I was thinking of another possibilty for #2 – Josh shook the table creating a random distribution of rice. Then he looked around the surface until he found a grouping of rice grains that looked like an eye, and took a close-up photo of just that area of the table.

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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