The Puzzle Instinct
The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Why does everyone love a good puzzle, as the expression goes? Why do puzzle magazines, brain-challenging puzzle sections in newspapers, and game tournaments appeal to hordes of ordinary people from every walk of life? Is this widespread penchant for puzzles no more than a passing fad foisted by our market culture on a gullible, bored populace spoiled ...
1 Why Puzzles?
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The great American author Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) once remarked that, for some enigmatic reason, human beings require that things be mysterious. Supporting Thoreau’s perceptive observation is the worldwide popularity of suspense thrillers, horror stories, and detective novels. But the penchant for mystery is not merely modern. Literary ...
2 Puzzling Language
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As the oldest puzzle known, the Riddle of the Sphinx (chapter 1) is a perfect example of how puzzles tell a fascinating story about human affairs. The inability to solve the riddle had, as we saw, dire consequences for would-be heroes. While the repercussions of not being able to solve riddles today are not as catastrophic, it is nonetheless true that ...
3 Puzzling Pictures
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To the naked eye, the opposite angles formed when two straight lines intersect appear to be equal. But this appearance, as obvious as it may seem, does not establish the angles as necessarily or always equal. In his great textbook of mathematical theory and method, known as Elements, the Greek mathematician Euclid (who lived around 300 B.C.) went beyond the evidence of eyesight and proved, beyond any iota of ...
4 Puzzling Logic
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In the fifth century B.C. heated debates broke out frequently in Greece over one of the greatest philosophical puzzles of all time—how human beings think. Prominent in the debates were the philosopher Parmenides (born c. 515 B.C.) and his disciple Zeno of Elea (c. 489–c. 435 B.C.). In Zeno’s time, leading scholars had based mathematics on ...
5 Puzzling Numbers
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As we saw in the opening chapter, some puzzles have played a significant role in the development of mathematics. Among the first works dealing with the basics of mathematical science one finds anthologies of puzzles. The Rhind Papyrus, as we saw, was most likely designed as an educational tool for teaching problem-solving, as a reference manual in practical mathematical theory, and as a source of brain-puzzling ...
6 Puzzling Games
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These are, more than likely, game boards that the masons who were working on the temple scratched into the stone to provide entertainment for themselves as they toiled away (Olivastro 1993: 123). The game shown in figure A was left unfinished, and its rules have not as yet been deciphered. Game B is thought to be a predecessor of pentalpha, a board game that is still played in Greece and other parts of the world. Markers are moved from place to place around the board. The goal is to line the markers up in a certain order or in a certain configuration, or else to remove ...
7 The Puzzle of Life
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Above all else, the purpose of this excursion into Puzzleland has been to argue, primarily by illustration, how creative and engaging the puzzle instinct is. Originating at the dawn of civilization, puzzles are among the oldest products of human ingenuity. The great American writer Henry Miller (1891–1980) once proclaimed that many of the seemingly ...
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BIBLIOGRAPHY AND GENERAL READING LIST
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 176 figures
Publication Year: 2002