IBM Research's "Ponder This" puzzle reaches milestone, inspires research paper

Share this post:

Guest blogger:  Oded Margalit, Machine Learning Researcher, IBM Global Research, Haifa.

Ponder This” is IBM Research’s monthly brain-twister where you can match wits with some of the best minds in IBM Research, run by James B. Shearer and Oded.  Oded wanted to share the following milestone with all of you.
Our Ponder-this corner reached its 127th month, which is the maximal number that fits into signed byte. To celebrate this, we will praise you – our devoted solvers – by sharing some of your flattering emails, and, of course, give you a special ponder-this question.
First, a salute to your persistence. Here’s an example of one devoted follower who sent in solutions from the Intensive Care Unit: 
“Let me just take this time to thank you and IBM for this wonderful web site.  It has provided me with many hours of puzzle solving pleasure, and also some interesting conversations with my family.

The first three weeks of June this year I spent in the hospital. One of the nights in the ICU my family and I passed some of the time by talking about Ponder This.  My daughter read the DNA problem to me at that time, and jokingly I told her I could be the first person to ever solve and answer a Ponder This while in the ICU.  I actually sent my entry from my hospital bed about a week later.

Again thanks. Looking forward to next month’s puzzle.”
Many thanks to all of those who sent  in great original and innovative riddles.
Of course it is heartwarming to get compliments like:
“PS.: Thank you 10^10 times for maintaining this extremely enlightening challenge. Each time I participate, I discover a new world.

That’s just great! ;-)”
Lastly, we are proud to tell you about a scientific paper that one of our solvers published a year ago in the prestigious Physics Review Letter journal. The paper was inspired by April 2007’s ponder-this puzzle.
ANTENEODO, C.; MORGADO, W.A.M. Critical scaling in standard biased random walks. Physical Review Letters 99(18): 180602-1-4 (2007):

We acknowledge Brazilian agencies CNPq and Faperj for partial financial support and IBM research ‘‘Ponder This’’ for having drawn attention to this model.
Check out the new Ponder This puzzle on the IBM Research web site.  And, I look forward to seeing your solutions and comments. 
More stories

A new supercomputing-powered weather model may ready us for Exascale

In the U.S. alone, extreme weather caused some 297 deaths and $53.5 billion in economic damage in 2016. Globally, natural disasters caused $175 billion in damage. It’s essential for governments, business and people to receive advance warning of wild weather in order to minimize its impact, yet today the information we get is limited. Current […]

Continue reading

DREAM Challenge results: Can machine learning help improve accuracy in breast cancer screening?

        Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is estimated that one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that 99 percent of women whose breast cancer was detected early (stage 1 or 0) survive beyond five years after […]

Continue reading

Computational Neuroscience

New Issue of the IBM Journal of Research and Development   Understanding the brain’s dynamics is of central importance to neuroscience. Our ability to observe, model, and infer from neuroscientific data the principles and mechanisms of brain dynamics determines our ability to understand the brain’s unusual cognitive and behavioral capabilities. Our guest editors, James Kozloski, […]

Continue reading