Da Vinci Days
Oregonians for Rationality booth

Cube puzzles
from easy to difficult
from innocent to diabolical

Some seldom-seen secrets that should sink pseudoscience:

Secret #1
This secret underlies all of science and all of the baffling mystery that all too many learners sense in science.

All opinions are not equally valid.
Sometimes we can see something that cannot be denied, even though it denies us something we devoutly wish for.  Then, when someone else hasn't seen what we saw, we know with a special kind of certainty, that their continued belief in that wished for wonder is, undeniably, absurd wishful thinking.
She (Mother Nature) who must be obeyed.
Seeing this "fourth-level" abstraction, seeing "buzz-saw certainty," is a giant leap toward understanding pseudoscience.

You will understand this principle better if you first try to solve the puzzle:

A carpenter, working with a buzz saw, wishes to cut a wooden cube, three inches on a side, into 27 one-inch cubes.  He can do this job easily by making six cuts through the cube, keeping the pieces together in the cube shape.  Can he reduce the number of necessary cuts by rearranging the pieces after each cut?  Either show how or prove that it's impossible.

...but don't click here until you've given it your best.


Secret #2
This secret underlies all of human society: its economics, its politics, its beliefs, its conflicts...

We can all be deceived because wondrous wishes are compellingly attractive. 

We are all saturated with the wondrous results of the scientific research of the advertising industry.  Hey, everybody, IT WORKS!  They wouldn't direct so much of our world's resources onto it if it didn't.  They also tell us, "You're much too smart to be fooled by hucksters," and they tell us that in powerful, but subtle, ways.  They have learned just how to convince us that we are that smart.  And then, they spend billions of dollars generating and guiding our wishes and opinions exactly as they wish.

Magicians fool us, too, but they do it to entertain us.


The "Prove Anything Ploy"
Intelligent Design of Societies
(the other kind)


Seeing self-deception, guided by experts is a giant leap toward understanding pseudoscience.

The salt shaker vanished, not the napkin we were watching!

The red puzzle is the Soma cube--it has many solutions.
The yellow puzzle is an even easier version of the Soma cube.

The brown puzzle is similar to the Soma cube,
but it is has been made deceptively simple
and diabolically deceptive.

This puzzle has a deep, dark, deceptive secret.
Its solution can vanish.


Secret #3
This secret doesn't want to be a secret.  Teachers have been giving it their all to make it not a secret.

Mathematics is a human ability to see patterns of patterns of patterns of..
Keith Devlin, The Math Guy, says that the drudgery we hate from our math classes isn't mathematics.  Even mathematicians hate that stuff and are usually not very good at doing it.  Real mathematics is discovery of beautiful patterns we never suspected exist, patterns that let us see things in abstract realms that connect familiar things which we have always thought were unrelated and unconnected
See The Math Gene, by Keith Devlin
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
Seeing this "fourth-level" abstraction, seeing mathematics, is a giant leap toward understanding pseudoscience.

Mind-Dancing into Magic

This puzzle is almost impossible to solve unless a little bit of math is applied to solving it.  It also illustrates that statistical reasoning can tell us a lot about things we never thought to ask about.

Return to
Da Vinci Days, 2002
James Randi & The Graand Wizard