Bra technology


Scientific proof that Tetris is, like, really hard

“This paper is, to the best of our knowledge, the first consideration of the complexity of playing Tetris.”

Thus begins a genuinely excellent piece of academic research: Official proof that Tetris is “NP-complete”. That’s geekspeak for saying there is no way to develop an algorithm to “solve” Tetris, to play it infinitely without losing. You could play it forever just flying by the seat of your pants, but there’s no way to program a system to do this. The search for NP-complete problems is, actually, a very big deal in computational science, which is what makes this paper rock so hard.

That, and the fact that scientists developed all these truly excellent terms to describe problematic Tetris brick layouts — like “Unfillable Buckets”, “Unapproachable Buckets”, “Spurned Notches”, and “Balconied Buckets”.

A good discussion of this is currently ongoing at Plastic, from whence I got this item. One poster pointed to other bits of Tetris science, including a friend who put an experimental version of Tetris online — it just throws the same brick at you, one after another, to see how long you can survive.

Even cooler Tetris science: You know how, if you play it for hours and hours, you can see the bricks falling when you close your eyes at night in bed? (That nearly drove me insane in college.) Anyway, some doctors did an experiment where they had amnesiacs play Tetris. Later, the amnesiacs reported dreams about falling Tetris bricks — even though they could not conciously remember ever having played the game. (More proof, apparently, that memory happens in unpredictable parts of our brains.)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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