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The world’s most difficult sudoku puzzle

Finnish mathematician Arto Inkala recently claimed to have created the world’s hardest Sudoku puzzle. Based on the number of deductions that need to be made to fill in a single cell, this puzzle achieves a difficulty rating of 11 stars, compared with five stars for the average newspaper sudoku. Can you crack it? Have a go. If you get stuck — or rather, when you get stuck — just paste the following grid into Bill DuPree’s sudoku solver, which will solve it for you in a fraction of a second. Thanks, Bill! 8 . . . . . . . . . . 3 6 . . . . . . 7 . . 9 . 2 . . . 5 . . . 7 . . . . . . . 4 5 7 . . . . . 1 . . . 3 . . . 1 . . . . 6 8 . . 8 5 . . . 1 . . 9 . . . . 4 . . Incidentally, if you install Bill’s software on your [More…]

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A robot that cheats

Think you’re good at rock-paper-scissors? You won’t beat this robot. That’s because it’s cheating: It’s still quite impressive though. Equipped with a high-speed video camera, it takes just one millisecond to recognise its opponent’s hand gesture without the need for special gloves or other such aids. This video was produced by the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at Tokyo University. YouTube has plenty of other videos of robots playing rock-paper-scissors, or janken (じゃんけん), as the game is known in Japan.

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Big Brother is… oh wait, never mind

The Daily Mail got the nation’s teacups rattling yesterday by reporting on a new CCTV camera that can supposedly scan 36 million faces per second. Although the rest of their article gets the facts a little bit straighter, their headline is totally misleading. How on earth would any camera be able to take a picture of 36 million people in one second, let alone recognise every single one of them? That’s more than the population of Canada. Here’s the original video from which the Mail published (uncredited) screenshots: First of all, they got the name of the company behind this technology wrong. It’s Hitachi Kokusai Electric (日立国際電気), not Hitachi Hokusai Electric. For the record, Kokusai (国際) means “international”. Hokusai (北斎) is the name of a Japanese artist who died in 1849. His most famous work was probably The Great Wave. What Hitachi have actually developed is a system that looks for and analyses human faces in the video pictures it receives, and then stores the resulting biometric records along with the CCTV footage. Operators can then search for a particular [More…]

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Son et lumière

Here’s a cool idea from NEC Lighting — a ceiling light with a built-in Bluetooth speaker that can be operated via an Android app. They’re not on sale yet, but should be available later this year (in Japan, at least).

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Cat’s ears

The latest invention from Japan is a headset that monitors the wearer’s brain activity and moves a pair of furry cat’s ears to reflect what the wearer is thinking. The product is called necomimi, which translates directly as “cat’s ears” (猫耳; ねこみみ). Its developers hope to have it on sale by the end of this year. Their website has all the latest news. I have to admit I thought this was all a hoax when I first heard about it, but a recent news article on the BBC website has another video that shows the product being tried out by ordinary members of the public.

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Header image: The Tokugawa family crest (three hollyhock leaves in a circle) decorates the roof of the bell tower at Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō (日光東照宮). Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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