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Author: matt

Optimal Battleship

Optimal Battleship

Nick Berry, president of DataGenetics, meticulously analyzes different strategies to play the classic board game Battleship (he also has done Chutes & LaddersCandyland and Risk)

It’s a great example of how computer scientists often work. He explores a host of techniques and analyzes the results by calculating how often you’ll get a perfect game, median number of guesses, and how bad it gets in the worst case.

He examines 4 major strategies:

  1. Pure random searching
  2. Hunt and Target – Hunt randomly until you get a hit, then proceed methodically to sink the hit ship.
  3. Hunt and Target with parity – since the minimum length of a ship is 2 units, you need only search even or odd squares
  4. Hunt and Target with parity combined with a probability density function.

His fourth approach is the most fascinating. The system calculates every possible configuration of the remaining ships, and then sums up the probability of a ship on each square. At the beginning, all the squares are basically equally probable, but as more and more guesses are made, the number of possible configurations decreases. If you continually calculate the sum of these possibilities, pick the square with the highest probability and repeat this process, you get significantly better results.

How much better? Purely random guessing gives you a median of 97 moves. Using parity with the hunt+target method averages 64 moves. But using the probability density function increases that to a staggering 42 moves on average.

Turns out, I discussed the use of this kind of probability density function by speedrunners who used the same technique to beat the splosh-kaboom minigame in the Legend of Zelda Wind Waker.

Rapidly Exploring Random Tree

Rapidly Exploring Random Tree

Algorithm of the day: Rapidly exploring random trees (RRT) is an algorithm designed to efficiently search non-convex spaces by randomly building a space-filling tree. The tree is constructed incrementally from samples drawn randomly from the search space and is inherently biased to grow towards large unsearched areas of the problem. They easily handle problems with obstacles and differential constraints and have been widely used in autonomous robotic motion planning.

Nope Eye

Nope Eye

Uncanny valley describes objects that imperfectly resemble actual human beings and provoke uncanny or eeriness in observers.

We need another word that describes things that actually horrify you. Perhaps the terror trough?

Scary frights and Lockdowns

Scary frights and Lockdowns

I love a good spooky story. With covid locking us all down, folks making scary experiences have gotten creative.

Psycho Clan – a group that creates immersive theatrical events – is making some interesting horror audio experiences in which you blindfold some friends, set up some simple props, and then guide them through the auditory experience. Looks like it could be some good fun!

Inspired by the classic ghost story “The Toll House” by W. W. Jacobs, you play Sam, a member of an intrepid group of friends who stubbornly insists on testing whether a house, notoriously known to be haunted, truly is… by spending the night in it!

Herbert Solow and Robert Justman share back story behind Star Trek

Herbert Solow and Robert Justman share back story behind Star Trek

Herbert Solow was the vice president of Desilu Studios and executive in charge of the production of the Star Trek series. Robert Justman was the associate producer and co-producer that was responsible for all the pre-production, production, and post-production. Gene Roddenberry reported to and worked hand in hand with these two men.

As an attempt to record all of what happened now that Roddenberry has died, these two remaining fathers of the series tell the amazing story behind Star Trek’s production. Definitely worth a listen.

Indiana Beach Mystery Mansion

Indiana Beach Mystery Mansion

I have fond memories of Indiana Beach, and especially of this classic pretzel dark ride: Mystery Mansion.

So far, this is the only known online pictures or footage of Mystery Mansion at Indiana Beach (thanks to foch41). Skip along to 1:57 for footage of the ride.

History:

Tom Spackman, Chief Executive Officer of Indiana Beach, designed and developed the Mystery Mansion ride in 1969, and it ran until 1998 when it was re-themed into the Den of Lost Thieves by Sally Rides.

You can also read a lot about pretzel dark rides here.

Details and information:

I’m currently working on a wikipedia article with all the info I could find here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft:Mystery_Mansion_Dark_Ride

Media:

If you have memories, pictures, or video, PLEASE link them or upload them somewhere and drop a link in the comments. If you were a ride operator, maintenance, remember any of the scenes or interior, please comment on those too!