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Maths Puzzle

  1. Dec 7, 2009 #1
    Hello all,

    Recently while on a 'schoolies' vacation a few friends presented a puzzle of 9 squares pieces that can be arranged into a larger 3x3 square. Each small piece had half an animal on each edge (either the head or tail, of say, a goat for a seahorse). The aim was to rotate each piece correctly so across adjacent edges an appropriate animal formed, and with this constraint arrange them all (validly!) into the 3x3 square...

    It took a good 10 minutes before I completed the puzzle, more or less based on luck. It got me wondering - it is definitely a mathematical combination - so is their any way to solve this?

    Is there any way of representing such a problem mathematically, whereby one can solve for the order and rotation of each piece?

    Adrian ;)
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2009 #2
    There are many representations possible, such as a 3x3 matrix of two-dimensional elements, the first being dimension being the set of integers 1 through 9 representing each piece, and the second being the set of integers 1 through 4 representing the four rotational possibilities.

    You can choose, without loss of generality, that the final solution has rotation 1:
    and have 2 mean a piece is rotated clockwise from the ideal position, 3 mean a piece is upside down, and 4 mean a piece is rotated counterclockwise.

    Now, if you mix up the pieces and spin them around, any starting position can be represented, such as:

  4. Dec 21, 2009 #3
    If luck had something to do with it, it seems to me like quite a bit of a statistical improbability! I am curious, are each of the squares unique? If so, then there being 4 rotations for each of the 9 squares and 9! ways place the squares in the 3x3 grid, there are 49*9! = 95,126,814,720 possible arrangements of the squares :eek:. If there is only one configuration that solves the puzzle then, arranging the squares in a random order gives 1/95,126,814,720 * 100 = 0.00000000105% chance of solving the puzzle for that random configuration.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
  5. Dec 22, 2009 #4
    1/95,126,814,720! * 100 should be WAY less than 0.00000000105%. Assuming that's a 95,126,814,720 factorial.
  6. Dec 22, 2009 #5
    Sorry, I accidentally inserted the factorial. I meant just 95,126,814,720. Thank you!
  7. Dec 22, 2009 #6
    I wish we chose a better symbol for factorials. As it is now we can't express shock & awe in math without ambiguity.
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