The Other I

September 2, 2010

The great mystery of Solitaire

Filed under: Intriguing Science — theotheri @ 3:25 pm
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When I rather lazily asked Google this morning what percentage of all games of Solitaire are potentially winnable, I was merely wondering how I compared with the best possible outcome.  I didn’t expect it to generate another post on reductionism.

The answer absolutely astonished me.  They don’t know.  They don’t know because the answer seems to involve Reimann zeta function (I haven’t the faintest idea) used in quantum physics.   The Reimann zeta function is used to figure out prime numbers, but has yet to be proved to be correct or incorrect and is one of the most biggest mysteries in mathematics since it was proposed over 140 years ago.

To figure out Solitaire?!   I tried to calculate 52! using Excel  which would tell me how many potential games of Solitaire there are altogether.  The number, I admit, is very very large.  But it is not infinite.  And if scientists can’t even predict the potential outcome of 52 inert cards, what chance have they of predicting much of anything?

As I’ve said before, what’s brilliant about reductionism is the potential outcome of its analysis, not its ability to predict and explain beforehand.

Besides that, physicists are now suggesting that even the laws of physics are not the same throughout the universe.  It’s been a suspicion of some scientists for quite some time that this might be so, but the implications are so devastating that it’s mostly been ignored.

I think we’d better get used to living with uncertainty.

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