The 12 Ball Problem LO25328

From: Winfried Dressler (
Date: 09/13/00

Replying to LO25321 --

Hi PeckYen and all,

It was fun to play a few minutes with the problem, but I would not take
the time to write on it were it not for the connections I could make to
our issues on logic and cybernetics.

It took a while until I could verify that the problem is indeed unsolvable
(this is the logic part): It is possible after three measures to know
which one is the odd one and also in 11 of 12 cases whether it is heavier
or lighter. This is the best we can get.

Now the more interesting, cybernetic part: After deciding to experience my
thinking with this problem, my thinking was triggered by
- a goal (find the solution, learn about your thinking)
- a set of rules (as stated in the problem, observe your thinking)
- information given in the context, which could be correct or not (there
is a solution although Walter was told that it was unsolvable)
- my own past experiences with such problems.

It is really interesting to observe what a cybernetic system like my
thinking does when experiencing dead ends (solve unsolvable problem).
Although the problem is unsolvable, the thinking does not stop here with a
clear statement and proof. Thinking goes on, on a different level. I can
think of three strategies: bend the goal, bend the rules (this was your
stategy) and leave the system.

These strategies are associated with emotional reaction and I would be
interested to hear whether these reactions are individually different for
each person or more collective as a part of the homo sapiens cybernetic
system. Bend the goal feels like an attack. Bend the rules feels like
cheating, playing a trick. Leaving the system is running away.

But when these strategies are combined new insight may emerge, giving the
joy of problem solving which was the real goal at the beginning.

Liebe Gruesse,



"Winfried Dressler" <>

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