1. 2012

    Optimal strategy in quantum tic-tac-toe

    Here’s something I discovered recently: quantum tic-tac-toe is a variant of tic-tac-toe which allows players to make multiple moves at once, in an attempt to simulate quantum entanglement and superposition. Apparently it was invented in part to provide a way of visualizing quantum concepts. In that respect, it seems to be a decent but imperfect conceptual aid, but it’s a pretty interesting game in its own right.

    Anyway, tic-tac-toe is one of the simplest games there is, so the optimal sequence of plays have been known for a long time (in particular that if both players play optimally, the game always ends in a draw). But what about quantum tic-tac-toe? This question recently popped up on Board & Card Games Stack Exchange, and I’m rather curious to see what answers it comes up with. Currently it has a 100-point bounty attached, which means if you contribute the winning strategy, you could get 100 free reputation to get your start on Stack Exchange!

  2. 2011

    Guess the author: a (drinking+physics)/sqrt(2) game

    Big news out of the CTEQ school tonight: we discovered that the various Twitter feeds which announce new arXiv papers only show you the title of the paper, not the author — not until you click on the link, anyway. So here’s a neat way to have fun at parties: someone who has a smartphone (or tablet) with a Twitter app brings up one of the aforementioned feeds, like HEPExperPapers, picks a paper title, and everyone tries to guess who the authors are, or at least which research group or institution is behind it. Anything with \(\sqrt{s} = \unit{7}{\tera\electronvolt}\) doesn’t count. Converting this into a drinking game is easy, you just drink every time you get it wrong. (i.e. every time) Or every time you get it right. (i.e. never) Or just have a beer in hand. I’m sure that’s within the error bars.

    Oh, and for the record: one of the people behind this brilliant idea happens to be the chair of a major university’s physics department.

  3. 2010

    Hall Pong: Doubles

    I bought a set of four new hall pong paddles today, and you know what that means… or maybe not. It was time to try out 2v2 hall pong!

    Since its inception early this year, hall pong has always been a 1-on-1 sport. (Simply because we always had only 2 paddles) The thing is, when playing 1-on-1, whenever you work the ball up the court, you’re abandoning the defense of your goal, which means that if you don’t score, your opponent has a clear shot. It tends to lead to rather quick points. Besides, there’s only so much creativity involved in the kinds of plays you can make — basically it’s just a matter of how close you’re willing to get to your opponent’s goal before you decide to spike it on them. Either you take a long shot, which is easy to block, or you get up close and then it turns into a struggle for who can get a lucky hit on the ball in one direction or another.

    Adding another person to each side introduces a whole new level of strategy, though. When you’re playing doubles, you still have the same …

  4. 2010

    Hall Pong: Now with tougher balls

    One of the things you’ll notice if you ever play hall pong is that ping pong balls will break, and fairly easily, too. (Especially the tournament quality 3-star balls) The logical way to get around that is of course to use harder balls, like whiffle-style practice golf balls. They’re made of much tougher plastic, so you can use just one for a long time.

    But using a different ball also changes the dynamics of the game significantly. For one thing, they’re more massive, so they don’t slow down as much while flying. A hall pong court is just long enough that you can hit a ping pong ball from one end to the other and have it arrive at a reasonably slow speed, but these practice golf balls can seem to come at you like bullets. It makes defense a lot harder and really tests your reflexes.

    The other thing about the heavier balls is that they don’t seem to bounce as well. Or rather, they bounce and keep going just about as fast as they were going before. So on defense, you’ll have a tendency to be jabbing your paddle at the ground …

  5. 2010

    Hall Pong: The sport of grad students

    Born out of a combination of ping-pong, racquetball, hockey, and sheer boredom, hall pong is a perfect way to procrastinate (and pretend to get some exercise) when you’re stuck in a basement office. It’s played in a hallway, with a goal line on the floor at each end, using a ping-pong ball and two paddles. The Official Rules are simple: