Spatial

2006 March 14
by barclay

For Valentines day, my mother sent me some valentines hearts and a deck of cards with Mensa-type questions on each one. You know, things like: “Re-arrange these numbers to make the following equation true without introducing any new mathematical symbols: 76 = 24”

(The solution is to turn the ‘6’ upside down to make it a ‘9’, and move the two into the exponent position to yield 72 = 49. I was stoked when I got that one.)

I’ve been pulling them out at various times and fiddling with the questions, which appear to fall into four general categories: logical, mathematical, purely lateral, and spacial, although all involve lateral thinking to some degree, at least to arrive at the answer quickly without brute-forcing the problem.

The logic problems are things like “Alice, Bob, Charlie, and Daniel are all accused of murder. The four made the following statements. […] Two of the four statements of false. Who committed the murder?” The mathematical problems are things like “Here’s four strings of numbers: 34589, 89129, 12?56, 234??. What numbers should fit in the question marks?” The purely lateral puzzles are like “A man leaves his home, walks 5 miles south, turns 90 degrees left, walks 5 miles east, turns 90 degrees left again, walks 5 miles north, and arrives home. How can this be?” The spacial puzzle are things like “Here’s five shapes/geometries/drawings. Which one does not belong?” Or “What comes next in the sequence?”

To my surprise, I get the spacial puzzles the fastest. I can do the logic ones with relative ease, although I usually have to draw out a truth table and can’t do most of them in my head without re-tracing my steps to a significant degree. The math ones, interestingly enough, I find myself getting bored with first. I’m not really interesting and calculating the cube and square of some subset of numbers looking for the reverse of some other number. I end up brute-forcing those problems for the most part, and not using all the short-cuts I could. (The software engineer in me just want to write a program to do it for me.) The purely lateral ones I just let simmer on the back-burner until the solution pops into my head, sometimes quickly, while sometimes it takes days or never arrives.

Perhaps this affinity for the visual indicates why I’ve always like art, and photography in particular; perhaps I’ve developed or had instilled in me some deep appreciation or cognizance of visual forms.

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