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Science Solves Tiddlywinks

Science Solves Tiddlywinks

By Peter Adams

Only weeks after the announcement that the game of checkers has been “solved”, scientists at the University of Bluewater have achieved similar success with the ancient game of Tiddlywinks.

A game is solved if a strategy has been found that will always lead to a win or a draw. In the case of checkers, researchers at Alberta University, Canada wrote a computer program that took 18 years to come up with the perfect strategy.

“Solving Tiddlywinks was a far more complex task”, says Dr. Mike Liddle who lead the research. “My colleagues and I have spent the last twenty-five years teaching our computer to play the game. We don't get invited to parties very often, but it was worth the wait”.

Dr. Liddle denies that his research detracts from the fun of the game. “Games are only fun if you're a perfect player and you can win every time. The computer is now so good that it can reduce my eight year-old daughter to tears. I'm very proud”.

Designing computers to play games is part of the field of Artificial Intelligence, and machines such as Deep Blue gained international fame by beating their human counterparts. But does the development of game-playing computers demonstrate progress? There are skeptics.

Lord Percy Marchment is Chairman of the Southern Counties Tiddlywinks Committee. “I haven't met this computer, and quite frankly I don't want to,” declared Marchment over a Duchy Original Shortbread. “We've all seen it in films – one day the computer is your humble secretary, the next day it's your Tiddlywinks opponent, and then it's taken over the world and we've all been turned into grey goo”.

With Tiddlywinks solved, researchers can direct their attention onto more complex games such as chess or warfare.

For more winking shenanigans try Winking World, the inspired tiddlywinks journal published online by the English Tiddlywinks Association (ta for the picture).

And if you thought that was funny, try these:

Funny - Biggest ever fossils discovered
- Silly - Why dragons keep princesses locked in castles
- Spoof - Google's new search engine, Where the Foogle?
- Cool -
Spandex space suits

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15 Jul 2011
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