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How to Win at Rock-Paper-Scissors

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Considered in a vacuum of perfect randomness, rock, paper and scissors are all equally viable and equally strong options when playing a good old fashioned game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Therefore, if you were playing against a computer that approached each game with a fresh batch of absolutely no human emotions or expectations, your best bet would be to play each option exactly one-third of the time. But since you're probably not playing against a computer (right?) you have to take into account your opponent's conditional response—or, how previous events will shape his or her behavior.

To examine this, researchers at Zhejiang University in China had 360 students, broken into 60 groups of six, play 300 rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors (over the course of a presumably very monotonous couple of hours). Their findings are represented by a series of increasingly complex graphs and equations here, but if you're concerned about the practical application of winning trivial hand games, check out this video produced by the nonprofit Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.

The video details two key findings from the study that help you decide what to play next after an initial game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. In each game, there are two possible outcomes: you win, or you lose. Since we are trying to predict what the other person will do, it helps to consider this from their perspective: they win, or they lose. If they win, they are statistically more like to re-play whatever they just won with than the other two options, and you should react accordingly. So, if you play paper and they beat you with scissors, chances are, they will play scissors again—so in order to win you should play rock.

Let's consider the other option—that they lose. In this case, they are more likely to behave in the next game as you did in the previous scenario, which is to say, play the thing that beats the thing they lost to. Knowing this, you should play the thing that beats the thing that beats the thing they lost to (you follow?). Or, if you play rock and beat their scissors, they will most likely play paper, assuming you will repeat rock, so in turn, you should play scissors. Since there are only three options, you can simplify this by just playing what they played the previous round.

Just hope your opponent didn't also get a look at this study.

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Is There a Limit to How Many Balls You Can Juggle?
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Carl Court, Getty Images

In 2017, a juggler named Alex Barron broke a record when he tossed 14 balls into the air and caught them each once. The feat is fascinating to watch, and it becomes even more impressive once you understand the physics behind it.

As WIRED explains in a new video, juggling any more than 14 balls at once may be physically impossible. Researchers who study the limits of juggling have found that the success of a performance relies on a number of different components. Speed, a.k.a. the juggler's capacity to move their hands in time to catch each ball as it lands, is a big one, but it's not the most important factor.

What really determines how many balls one person can juggle is their accuracy. An accurate juggler knows how to keep their balls from colliding in midair and make them land within arm's reach. If they can't pull that off, their act falls apart in seconds.

Breaking a juggling world record isn't the same as breaking a record for sprinting or shot put. With each new ball that's added to the routine, jugglers need to toss higher and move their hands faster, which means their throws need to be significantly more accurate than what's needed with just one ball fewer. And skill and hours of practice aren't always enough; according to expert jugglers, the current world records were likely made possible by a decent amount of luck.

For a closer look at the physics of juggling, check out the video below.

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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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