Rubik's Sudoku?!?

Published on Thursday, March 30, 2006 in , ,

Rubik's SudokuYes, Rubik's Sudoku is a real thing, or at least it will be soon. The question marks are in the title of this post because there's no word on the official Rubik's site about this product yet. I'm not even sure exactly what this thing is.

Doing some digging around the web, here's what I've found. Funagain Games is the only US supplier I've found for Rubik's Sudoku. Over in the UK, Amazon.co.uk's listing for it is already up.

It seems to be some kind of Sudoku visualizer, built by Rubik's that comes with a book of 100 puzzles of it's own, and can be set up for any other Sudoku puzzle, as well. It's expected to be released in May, 2006. From the descriptions, you can use it both in the "normal way" (apparently with all tiles being the same color), or with colored tiles, to help you visualize possible solutions better.

As soon as more information is available on this new mystery item, I'll provide an update.



Published on Monday, March 27, 2006 in , ,

Non Transitive DiceOver at Boing Boing, Mark Frauenfelder discusses a dice game that seems fair, but is actually in your favor. Done correctly, you can always select a die that will beat your opponent on 2 out of 3 rolls, over the long run!

This is the result of the design of the dice themselves. As Mark points out, there is a wonderful explanation of the mathematics by Ivar Peterson available online. If you're more interested in getting to the game itself, the dice themselves are available from Grand Illusions, in both a numbered version (this is the set described in the lined article) and a more traditional spotted version.

What's that? You want to pull this con without using suspicious and unfamiliar dice? Mark has an answer for that, as well. In this Boing Boing entry, he describes a similar con game that's played with regular coins.

If you like these types of cons, I highly suggest you seek out back issues of MAGIC and Genii that feature Bob Farmer's Flim-Flam column. In each column, Mr. Farmer presents various con games, and discusses the principles behind them in depth. One of my favorite cons is one that seems to be based on blackjack, but, unbeknownst to your opponent, is actually a well-disguised game of Tic-Tac-Toe played on a magic square!

These articles make for an interesting read for two reasons. First, the simple nature of these games opens up a surprising lesson in mathematics. Second, how often do you learn about con games from a Mark?


Busy Week at Grey Matters!

Published on Sunday, March 26, 2006 in , , , , , , , , ,

Personalized Magic Square Buttons and MagnetsThe projects I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry have finally been coming to fruition this week, and I can tell you it's great to finally see some finished results!

First, the big news! The Mac OS X version of my Train your Brain and Entertain software now has its own page on Apple's site in the Macintosh Products Guide! This is actually the second time this blog has received a mention on Apple's site. The first was their listing of the Grey Matters Dashboard Widget.

I've also added a new “feat”-ure to the Mental Gym. This new feat is known as the Serial Number Feat, and was originated by Royal V. Heath. In this feat, you have someone take out a bill, and hide the serial number from you. You ask for the total of the 1st and 2nd digits of the serial number, then for the total of the 2nd and 3rd digits, and so on, through to the total of the 7th and 8th digits. You also ask for the total of the 2nd and 8th digits. Once you have all these numbers, you perform a bit of quick math, after which you are able to tell the person the serial number on their bill! There are two versions taught, one in which you do the calculations on a notepad, and the other you do from memory. I've even added a javascript program to help you practice the serial number feat.

Finally, for those of you who are wondering what that button graphic above has to do with any of this, I have your answer. Over at the Grey Matters store, I'm now offering personalized magic square buttons and magnets! Yes, the ready-made magic squares are nice, but it's tough to beat having your own magic square, designed especially for you. It can add an extra dimension of wonder to memories of an already special occasion, such as birthdays, anniversaries or wedding. They are available individually, for only US$ 3.00, which makes for a very inexpensive gift. They are also available in larger quantities with discounts of up to 40% off, which makes them perfect for use as a unique party favor! Follow the instructions on the Personalized Magic Square Buttons and Magnets page to order.


Day of the Week for any Date

Published on Thursday, March 23, 2006 in , , , , ,

Day for any Date Wall CalendarOne of the classic memory feats, which I even teach in Train Your Brain and Entertain, is the ability to give the day of the week for any date.

The classic method requires plenty of practice with memory and mathematics. To get an idea of just what's required, you can take a look at this explanation of the Calendar feat. As long as you put in the practice, there's nothing wrong with this feat, and you're always ready to do it at a moment's notice (or at least, anywhere you have a perpetual calendar handy for verification).

One of the best treatises on performing this feat is Sam Schwartz's notes, simply entitled Day For Any Date. Not only is the basic system explained, but also the reasoning behind the method, ingenious short cuts and a seemingly endless variety of performance angles for both close-up and stage. It was originally published in 1997, and is available from Karl Fulves (Box 433, Teaneck, NJ 07666, USA).

However, there have been alternative methods to make the work easier. One of the most widely known is Jack Dean's You Were There. In this version, any date over a span of 250 years is given, and you can immediately use the included calendar to show the month, apparently using only your memory.

My own brand new entry in the pseudo-memory version is the 2006 Day for any Date Wall Calendar. In this version, you can someone to give you any day in 2006, such as their birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, and you can give the day of the week very quickly. The memory work and mathematics have been minimized by the design of the calendar itself. It can be used with the calendar open, with the spectator looking at the date. It can even be used closed, in a presentation where one person gives a date, and your memory is pitted against a spectator with the calendar in a race to find the correct day of the week. If you decide to purchase this calendar, contact me with the name and city you used when ordering the calendar, and I'll send you the method as soon as the calendar ships out!


Computers Straining Your Brain

Published on Sunday, March 19, 2006 in , , , , ,

GMail MemoryComputers have often been compared to an electronic version of the brain, so it's only natural that you get help straining your brain from them.

Apparently, Nintendo agrees with me. Their upcoming release for the Nintendo DS, scheduled for April 17th, is called Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes A Day (I like the name!).

Among the available activities in Brain Age will be:

Syllable Count - Count the syllables in well-known phrases.
Reading Aloud - Read classic literature as fast as possible.
Stroop Test - Say the names of colors as they appear.
Word Memory - Memorize words that appear on screen.
Speed Counting - Count to 120 as fast as you can.
Connect Maze - Draw lines to connect letters and numbers in alphabetical and numeric order.
Calculation - Perform simple math problems quickly.
Head Count - Count people as they enter and exit a house.
Triangle Math - Solve math problems in a certain pattern.
Low to High - Memorize the position of numbers, then touch them in order from lowest to highest.

There is much more detail about the game at the links above, so check them out for an amazing list of features.

Don't have a Nintendo DS? Another way to challenge your brain is through the GMail Memory Chain Game. This is a memory challenge that you set up with other friends, and play via e-mail. Despite the name, you can really play it with any e-mail program. Gmail, any any other e-mail software that groups discussions together, works better to keep the game going, however.


Student Recites 8,784 Digits of Pi

Published on Friday, March 17, 2006 in , , ,

PiGaurav Rajav, 15-year-old, managed to recite Pi to 8,784 digits, in an attempt to go for the 10,790-digit US record. There's more detail on this story over at Yahoo News.


Notes from Math Class

Published on Friday, March 17, 2006 in , , , , ,

Arthur Benjamin's upcoming bookSeveral projects have been keeping me busy, but I've nonetheless been able to find some sites I hope you'll find are worth exploring:

* Dr. Arthur Benjamin, whom I've mentioned on this blog before, has a new book that is scheduled to be released on August 8th, 2006. The tenative titles are "Think Like a Math Genius" or "Secrets of Mental Math". If you're familiar with, and fascinated with, Dr. Benjamin's work, you'll be glad to know about these books. If you're not familiar with his work, check out the above links.

* I've found another great Magic Square Page to add to the growing list of magic square sites here on Grey Matters. This site is by Harvey Heinz, whose full site is worth checking out (assuming your mind hasn't been too scrambled by the magic squares section).

* Speaking of magic squares, one of the projects I've been busy with is adding a line of magic square-related clothing to the Grey Matters Online Store. The two magic squares available there now are a magic square that still works when rotated 180 degrees, and a semi-magic square that also functions as a Knight's Tour!


Grey Matters' one-year Blogiversary! (Oh, and Pi and Einstein, too!)

Published on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 in , , , ,

365 days and 114 posts ago, I started Grey Matters. That makes today Pi Day, Albert Einstein's birthday and Grey Matters' one-year Blogiversary! You may want to check out my very first post.

Of course, as part of my celebration, I've been holding a sale over at the Grey Matters Online Store, so if you want to start preparing for Pi Day 2007 by committing to learn 400 Digits of Pi, you may wish to check out the Train Your Brain and Entertain software, as well as some of the items I've created to help you demonstrate your knowledge of Pi! Today is your last chance to save US$4 on any purchase over US$40, by entering the code MARCH4 when you check out.

If you're wondering why anyone would memorize Pi in the first place, you can find out why people memorize Pi over at Pi Memorama. If you read that list, you'll see Pi isn't necessarily as serious as it would first appear. Pi can be silly, inspirational or humorous, depending on whose hands you put it. Ever wonder if your birthday or other important numbers in your life are in Pi? Granted, with Pi being infinite and patternless, it's guaranteed to be in there somewhere, but if it's anywhere within the first 1,254,543 digits, you can find out at “Am I in Pi?”.

Of course, we can't leave Albert Einstein out of the discussion on his birthday. Thanks to the web, you can do everything from reading Einstein's own words, seeing what is being done with Einstein's original work to putting your own words in Einstein's hands. For a more complete picture of the man himself, I suggest going through the resources at Albert Einstein Online and the “Einstein's Big Idea” page on the NOVA website.

Remember, my blogiversary, Pi Day and Einstein's birthday are meant to be fun! If you don't believe me, just ask Einstein himself:



Published on Sunday, March 12, 2006 in , , , , ,

15 puzzleIt's tough enough finding sites that encourage you to strain your brain, so when I find such sites that, like Grey Matters, believe this should be fun, then you know I'm going to post them right away!

Our first stop is Gloo: the memory company. This is the site for an Australian company that focuses on improving memory. Like me, they have a passion for fun and mental improvement. On their site, you can find not only their services, but plenty of free stuff, as well! First, they're one of the sponsors of the World Memory Challenge, which I mentioned in this blog last December. They also feature a free newsletter called, “Splat!”. Many of the back issues are available on their site with a little hunting (including the editor's record-breaking Pi memorization), but you can also subscribe to the newsletter via e-mail. When you sign up this way, you get a free bonus, an article called, “How To Remember 'Whatshisname'”. It's a short but informative article on how to improve your memory for people's names. If you've ever had this trouble, sign up for the newsletter and get this article now! Take a look around at their other free goodies, as well.

Our other stop today is Braingle, a site so large, I'm not quite sure where to begin. This is a free membership community where you can join in with others who like to stretch their mental capacity. Braingle's 5 main sections are Brain Teasers, Mentalrobics, Games, Community and Store. The parts of the site that mainly captured my attention were the Mentalrobics articles, especially the memory articles, the flash card section and the puzzles. Their Java-based 15 puzzle is great for praticing the “40 30s 4 15” feat. Yes, of course they have Sudoku (Flash required), as well.

Have fun looking around these sites, and I'll be back on Pi Day!


Grey Matters Store: New Features

Published on Thursday, March 09, 2006 in , , , , , ,

Grey Matters faviconIf you haven't already done so since Sunday (March 5th), check out the Grey Matters store. I've done a complete redesign on it, to make it flow better with the new design for this blog and the Mental Gym.

Due to the redesign, some of the links have changed. The main store page is now http://www.cafepress.com/greymatters, to make it easier to remember. You may want to use this link to update to anything you linked to on this site.

A simpler way to find the updated link for any product on the page is the new catalog feed. This is an RSS feed that links directly to every product in the store. Simply copy and paste the following address into your news aggregator/feed reader to see the feed:


This feed is also a great way to stay current as new products are added to the store.

Don't forget, too, that you can get US$ 4 off any US$ 40 or more purchase at the Grey Matters store, now through Pi Day (March 14th), by simply entering the code MARCH4 during the checkout process!


Looking Through The Mental Attic

Published on Sunday, March 05, 2006 in ,

Brain Power ClubI try to keep bringing you the latest news concerning fun mental feats, of course, but sometimes, looking through cobwebsites (sites that haven't been updated in a long time) can also yield some interesting treasures. It's not uncommon to go looking through the attic on a Sunday, only this Sunday, we're looking through the mental attic.

Over at still-updated Mind Sports Worldwide, they have a few sections that haven't been updated since about 2000 or 2001. The first part is the Brain Power Club section. The Brain Power Magazine is especially interesting. There were only 3 issues, but they were packed with information. A regular column in the magazine was called "Amazing Memory Stories", where you could learn about the historical memory feats of Euripides, Shereshevsky and Ireno Funes.

Among the other interesting articles in the Brain Power Magazine is an explanation of mind mapping and an article called “Belt Your Memory”, which explains a system similar to the one used in martial arts to rank your memory ability.

The site Remember Anything is a resource for articles about memory and speed reading that hasn't been updated in the past 6 months. There aren't many articles here, but the ones they do have are quite good. The “It all started when...” article reminds me of my own story of becoming interested in memory techniques. My favorite articles on this site also include “The Fundamentals of Memorization”, Part 1 and Part 2, as well as, “Children can Learn Multiplication in about an hour!”, which discusses an easy mnemonic approach to teaching the multiplication tables up to 10 times 10.

While it seems that Remember Anything and Brain Power Magazine barely got started before they stopped updating, that is most definitely not the case with Michael Tipper's Memory Improvement and Learning Information site. This site offers a wealth of information on memory training, mnemonics, great minds, amazing brain stories and even memory improvement book reviews. I'm not even going to mention specific articles on this site, because this is one of those sites that it's just fun to lose yourself in! I will mention that, even if you think you're done losing yourself in the site, don't forget to check out the feature articles for further reading.

I hope you have a pleasant day rummaging through this mental attic!


New Look for Grey Matters

Published on Saturday, March 04, 2006 in ,

Ever since I realized that Grey Matters' 1-year blogiversary was drawing closer, I've been putting some heavy thought into redesigning the site.

You now see the final result before you! Both the blog and the Mental Gymnasium have been updated to this look.

There wasn't that much wrong with the old one, but I felt it wore itself out quicker than I expected. Also, I received more than a few comments about links being hard to differentiate from the normal text. Hopefully, the new look is easier to read, and the links are easier to see.

Some very special thanks should go to freetemplates.blogspot.com for the template, and cooltext.com for their help in creating the new logo.

Personally, I already like the new look, but I'm probably biased. What do you think?