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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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Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
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Play a Game to Help Scientists Defeat a Cancer-Causing Toxin
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images

If you're used to fighting virtual zombies or flying spaceships on your computer, a new series of games available on Foldit may sound a little unconventional. The object of the Aflatoxin Challenge is to rearrange protein structures and create new enzymes. But its impact on the real world could make it the most important game you've ever played: The scientists behind it hope it will lead to a new way to fight one of the most ruthless causes of liver cancer.

As Fast Company reports, the citizen science project is a collaboration between Mars, Inc. and U.C. Davis, the University of Washington, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The team's online puzzles, which debuted on Foldit earlier this month, invite the public to create a new enzyme capable of finding and destroying carcinogens known as aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins form when certain fungi grow on crops like corn, nuts, and grains. Developing countries often don't have the resources to detect it in food, leaving around 4.5 billion people vulnerable to it. When people do eat food with high aflatoxin levels unknowingly, they can contract liver cancer. Roughly a quarter of all liver cancer cases around the world can be traced back to aflatoxin exposure.

The toxin's connection to agriculture is why the food giant Mars is so interested in fighting it. By working on a way to stop aflatoxins on a molecular level, the company could prevent its spread more efficiently than they would with less direct methods like planting drought-resistant crops or removing mold by hand.

The easiest way for scientists to eradicate an aflatoxin before it causes real harm is by making an enzyme that does the work for them. With the Aflatoxin Challenge, the hope is that by manipulating protein structures, online players will come up with an enzyme that attacks aflatoxins at a susceptible portion of their molecular structure called a lactone ring. Destroying the lactone ring makes aflatoxin much less toxic and essentially safe to eat.

The University of Washington launched Foldit in 2008. Since then, the online puzzle platform has been used to study a wide range of diseases including AIDS and Chikungunya. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the Foldit's new aflatoxin project for the next several weeks or so, after which scientists will synthesize genes based on the most impressive results to be used in future studies.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Nervous System
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Every Laser-Cut 'Geode' Jigsaw Puzzle is One of a Kind
Nervous System
Nervous System

If you haven’t picked up a boxed jigsaw puzzle in a while, trust that they’ve undergone a serious transformation since your childhood. One of the most innovative companies in the category is Nervous System, a self-described “generative design studio” that composes computer programs to create puzzles based on patterns found in nature.

Their latest project, Geode, is a line of jigsaw puzzles modeled after agate stone. Like the rest of Nervous System’s puzzle inventory, it has an unusual and dynamic design; it's meant to mimic the band pattern of actual agate created by trapped gas in volcanic stone.

Several geode puzzles are shown
Nervous System

According to Nervous System’s site: “To create the organic shape of the pieces, we designed a system based the simulation of dendritic solidification, a crystal growth process similar to the formation of snowflakes that occurs in supercooled solutions of certain metallic alloys. By varying the parameter space, the system can produce a variety of cut styles. Each puzzle produced features its own unique landscape of interlocking shapes. No two are alike.”

Though lovely to look at, the puzzles utilize Nervous System's "Maze" piece-cutting method, which results in irregular and distorted shapes that may prove "fiendishly difficult" for some.

The 8.5-inch puzzles are made from plywood and feature 180 pieces. You can grab one for $60 at Nervous System’s online shop.

[h/t MyModernMet]

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