Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Puzzles Will Save the World

Martin Demaine, an artist-in-residence at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, believes that puzzles can save the world!!!

This has been substantiated by the fact that alternative ways of solving problems have already made cars safer, candies easier to unwrap, and may one day help cure diseases.

Research, and computer science in general is a type of riddle.

"For me, the excitement is to solve a puzzle that's never been solved before," Demaine says. "As a researcher, you don't solve things that have been done; you ask questions, you create puzzles."

Demaine and his colleagues, which includes his son Erik who is also on the faculty at the MIT lab, have used puzzles and games to make important contributions to engineering, computer science, and mathematics.

An example is the "fold and cut" problem, which asks if there is a way to fold a piece of paper so that making a single cut can create a hole of any given shape.

The Demaines created a solution that has since been used in the manufacturing of car air bags.

The MIT researchers are also working on folding nanostructures, which could be described as DNA origami. Martin Demaine says that if protein-folding can be understood, it would be possible to design proteins to cure diseases. The purpose of the Demaines' research is not to create applications, but to show there are more efficient ways to build things and that research can be fun. "Puzzles will save the world," Demaine says.

Lets hope it does! And while they get busy in creating puzzles lets just ponder over what kind of future awaits us.

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