Puzzles & Paradoxes

Subject Name: 

Natural Science

Course Number: 
Hampshire College
It has been argued that puzzling is as intrinsic to human nature as humor, language, music, and mathematics. Zeno's paradoxes of motion and the liar and heap paradoxes ("This sentence is false," "Does one grain of sand change a non-heap into a heap?") have challenged thinkers for centuries; and other paradoxes have forced changes in philosophy, scientific thinking, logic, and mathematics. We'll read, write, and talk about the Riddle of the Sphinx, the Minotaur's Maze, the Rhind papyrus, Pythagorean mysticism, Archimedes' wheel, Fibonacci's rabbits, Durer's magic square, Konigsberg's bridges, Lewis Carroll, Sam Loyd, E.H. Dudeney, Mvbius's band, Maxwell's Demon, Schrodinger's cat, Hempel's raven, the theorems of Kurt Godel and Kenneth Arrow, the Loony Loop, Rubik's cube, the Prisoner's Dilemma and the unexpected hanging, Russell, Berrocal, Christie, Escher, Borges, Catch-22, Sudoku, Gardner, Coffin, Kim, Smullyan, and Shortz. Recreational mathematics will pervade the course, and we'll grapple with irrationality, pigeonholes, infinity, and the 4th dimension. We'll discover, create, classify, share, enjoy, and be frustrated and amazed by lots of visual illusions, mechanical, take-apart, assembly, sequential, jigsaw, word, and logic puzzles. We'll hone our problem-solving skills and consider the pedagogic and social value of puzzles. Armed with examples and experience, we might find some possible answers to "what makes a puzzle 'good'?" and "why do people puzzle?"

Physical and Biological Sciences Quantitative Skills Independent Work

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Course Sections

Puzzles & Paradoxes
Sect # Credits Instructor(s) Instructor Email Meeting Times Location
1 4.0

David Kelly


01:00PM-02:20PM M;01:00PM-02:20PM W,F

Cole Science Center 2-OPEN;Cole Science Center 333