Publication of the Society for Science & the Public

# Question Sheet: Play for Science

SCIENCE

1. Name a game you like to play. What skills do you learn from playing that
game?
2. Do you think playing games is good for people, bad for people, or neither?

1. What is a facelet on the Rubik’s Cube?
2. How many possible arrangements are there for the facelets on a Rubik’s Cube?
3. How did scientists break down the problem of solving the Rubik’s Cube into
smaller problems?
4. Now that scientists have come up with a solution for the Rubik’s Cube, how
might they apply what they’ve learned in other fields?
5. How many possible arrangements are there for the pieces on a checkerboard?
6. How did Schaeffer break down his checkerboard problem into two separate
problems?
7. Why did Schaeffer say, “I’m quite amazed that I had enough patience to stick
with this”?
8. How did both Kunkle and Schaeffer use computers to solve problems?

1. In your own words, explain the differences between trying to win a game of
checkers and trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube.
2. What do the Rubik’s Cube and a game of checkers have in common?
3. How would Schaeffer and Kunkle work on the same problems if there was no
such thing as a computer? Do you think the work would be possible? If so, how
long would it take?
4. Kunkle believes the “absolute minimum” of moves on a Rubik’s Cube is just
20, not the 26 moves his program worked out. Why might his team still be six
moves short of the perfect solution, even though they used a powerful computer?
5. The researchers who worked on solving checkers and the Rubik’s Cube both
began by limiting the number of possible arrangements. Why might it be useful to
break down a big problem into smaller problems? Could there be limitations to
this type of approach?
6. Think of another game or puzzle, besides checkers or the Rubik’s Cube, that
someone could solve using a computer. How might you break down that problem into
smaller, more manageable questions?
how?

LANGUAGE ARTS

1. Team up with a friend. Imagine that one of you is a journalist for a
magazine and the other is Schaeffer. The journalist should interview the
scientist about his work. Now switch. This time, the journalist should interview