Science Problem Solving

Science Problem Solving-36
If you put people in a room with the tacks in the box, they’re less likely to solve it than if the tacks and box are separate.The way we frame problems makes them more or less difficult. This suggests that we can increase our general problem solving ability by actively thinking of new ways to represent and think about a problem — different points of view. Translating a problem into another medium is a cheap way of producing insight.If I were running things, I think I would have sent Moses down the mountain with that as one of the ten commandments instead of two versions of “thou shalt not covet.” That’s what this post is about: How do humans solve problem and what, if anything, can we do to become more effective problem solvers? I spend too much time confused and frustrated, struggling against some piece of mathematics or attempting to understand my fellow man to not be interested in leveling up my general problem-solving ability.

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The number of possible moves in a chess match — itself a simplification when compared to, you know, — is \( 10^ \), while the number of atoms in the observable universe is a mere \( 10^ \).

It’s a near certainty, then, that the human mind doesn’t consider an entire graph when solving a problem, but somehow approximates a graph search.

After all, life is in some sense a series of problems, of obstacles to be overcome. Or you could break into a sorority house and attack her there, along with six of her closest friends.

If we can upgrade from a hammer to dynamite to blast through those, well, what are we waiting for? Problem solving can be understood as a search problem. These are possible paths to the final state, which in this macabre example is murder.

George Pólya in his writes (paraphrased), “You know something like this. ” The history of science, too, is filled with instances of reasoning by analogy. This is not really what an atom looks like, though, but it has stuck with us by way of Rutherford.

Indeed, we can often gain cheap insights into something by borrowing the machinery from another discipline and thinking about it in those terms.

The key insight in this problem is that the box that the tacks are contained in is not just for holding tacks, but can be used as a mount, too — again, a change in the representation.

In fact, the rate at which people solve this problem depends on how it’s presented.

Problem solving, then, can be thought of as, “Starting at the initial state, how do I reach the goal state?

” On this simple graph, the answer is trivial: On the sort of graph you’d encounter in the real world, though, it wouldn’t be so easy.


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