Early on, Selby and Riordan made a surprising discovery. As the number of pieces in an Eternity-like puzzle increased, so did the difficulty – but only up to a point. The critical size is about 70 pieces, which would be almost impossible to solve. For larger puzzles, however, the number of possible correct solutions increases. In the case of Eternity itself, with its 209 pieces, there are thought to be at least 1095 solutions – far more than the number of subatomic particles in the universe but far, far less than the number of non-solutions. The puzzle itself is much too large to solve by an exhaustive search but not, as it turns out, by more savvy methods that take into account what shaped regions are easiest to tile and what shaped pieces are easiest to fit. By steadily refining their search algorithm, Selby and Riordan were able to prune out the vast majority of non-solutions and, with a bit of good fortune, to hit upon a correct solution and claim the prize.
Related categories GAMES AND PUZZLES
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