Getting stoopid

It’s been happening for longer time. I’m getting stupid. As in “not clever”. I’m learning new ways to solve specific problems, but my general problem-solving skills are very bad nowadays (in the timeframe of several years, not specifically at the moment (actually work helps a bit, I guess)).

I used to be good at solving easy problems that many people get stuck at.

Let me give you an example… There are two ways of making a thumbnail from a picture:

In the first one, you get width and height of the original picture and the boundaries (width, height) into which the thumbnail must fit. You resize the picture so as to preserve the width/height ratio. What is the width and height of the thumbnail?

The second one is trickier, but still falls into “must be easy” category:

Again, you start with width and height of the original picture, and width and height into which the thumbnail must fit. The difference is that now you must fill the whole thumbnail and cut off the exceeding parts. Suppose you want to have the thumbnail in the center. What are the left x-coordinate/y-coordinate and width/height of the area to cut the thumbnail from the original picture?

resizeIn case you say that I’m so dumb I can’t even describe the task, here’s a picture that (hopefully) explains everything.

Ok, now go and solve it. Seriously, take a pencil and paper, or fire up your favourite text editor and solve it. In case you “know it’s trivial but can’t be bothered to solve it”, don’t even bother to read on.

This kind of problem that doesn’t require (almost) any prior knowledge and has simple input and simple output is the kind of problem which used to be much easier for me to solve than for most people. Well, not anymore. And I wonder — can I do anything about it?

I thought that various logical puzzles might be a good way to force my brain to learn to solve problems again. So I searched a bit and found some excellent puzzles: blue eyes, three hats, and prisoners with hats in a long row (of course the comments under the post are wrong). The puzzles do not require any kind of “trick” to solve.

PS: Please don’t post solutions to the thumbnail problem. If you solved it, you know you solved it. If you are not sure, you haven’t solved it.

5 thoughts on “Getting stoopid

  1. Funny, I just ordered some books with math and logic puzzles. The motivation was that I was afraid of becoming lazy (no brain usage needed in my daily routine), and to check how solving these kind of problems relates to doing Go problems.

    The blue eyes problem is a very known one, it exists in several variants, and it is quite diffucult…

  2. About those links. Just on a first look – I admit I havent actually read everything – they looks like a typical “technocrat” approach (which is illustrated by all the computer methaphors thrown in) to what is called “intelligence”. The author seems to almost equate intelligence and “genius” (!) to the ability of solving IQ tests. I find this premise highly problematic. Moreover, the very idea of “formulating a perscription for genius” sounds like a contradiction in terms to me; unless of course what is meant is a study schedule to practice IQ tests (that is, a very specific and narrow definition of “genius” is used).

    I’ve said it before: it is a very simplistic approach which does no justice to the extremely broad and diverse range of abilities, perks and properties that make up “genius” (and not to mention such a vague concept as “creativity”), taken in the meaning in which we use this word in daily language. But of course, computer programmers and mathematician types are stereotypically shut off from a lot of aspects of the human experience ;-)

  3. ignus,
    I’ll admit that I haven’t even read the faq I posted but I have read the other article. The author has identified certain aspects that improve your problem solving abilities. His position is that changing how you do a few simple things can increase your mental abilities. No matter how low your iq is when you start. Is it this you disagree with?

    Oh, and I have one more link to share. An interview with the man done by wired:
    http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/magazine/16-05/ff_wozniak?currentPage=1

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