Friday, November 7, 2008

My marathon run : Tower of Hanoi & other online games

Phew! I finally did it!!!
I cannot stop smiling. It feels like I have conquered Mount Everest!
Ok, I will tell you what I am writing about......

As you might know from my hobbies that playing games has always been one of my favourite things to do and I am glad I still do. That is because as a child I reflected what I was at that time and seeing how people change when they grow up, I thought to myself that I too would change and would not remain the same person. My hobbies would change, the things that I liked at that time, I will not when I grow up. But after all these years- 24 and a half as of now, I now look back at that child who had become sad on thinking that as a grownup, that child would not be there and in his place there would be someone else. At this point of time, many things have changed- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and various other ways but inside when I look, I still find that child exactly the same and it gives me great satisfaction.

Almost every day I spend some of my time playing games, maybe online games or others but I do play a lot and have been doing it for years and I consider myself pretty good at it. Today I played a game, which though I knew about, had not really played much before. The game is- “Tower of Hanoi”

Perhaps some of you might know this game. You can play it from-

It is such a simple game in principle. You basically have 3 pegs and some discs from 3 to 12 in number, in ascending order of sizes, depending on the difficulty level, on the first peg initially. All you have to do is transfer all the discs to the third peg but with the condition that you can only move one disc at a time and a larger disc cannot be placed on the smaller disc. That’s it. It cannot get simpler than this. You will have to play it yourself to understand.

Initially start with 3 discs to understand the principle. Then gradually go on increasing the number of discs. The highest that you can go is 12 and God is it difficult! My friend and roommate had challenged me that I couldn’t possibly complete with 12 discs. Well, it would not be a bad bet to make with your friends. You will have to be really unlucky to find someone who can do it. And yes, he found me!
Below is an example to do it with 4 discs :

Just to have a little idea of what it is playing with 12 discs, just click the solution button on the slowest speed from the link provided above, and you will see how much time it takes just to move it. The minimum possible steps in which you can do it is…Can you guess? 100? 500? 1000? No…not at all. The minimum number of steps in which you can do it is 4095!!! It means there is no possible way to do it below 4095 steps. These many will be required ATLEAST. I took 4323 steps and over 2 hours. Around 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Just imagine the amount of time that would be required to just make 4323 steps and add to it the major part- THINKING. That is obviously the major part of the game. You have to think about what move to make.

It is really a Marathon. A mental one and as close to mental torture as you can get. The amount of challenges that you get in so many ways! I had the opportunity to observe my mind as I played it and I tell you, there comes these points when you become absolutely blank. You have almost no idea what you are doing. You feel so lost, you come to know the meaning of the word ‘lost’. Also some of the added problems that we may not be able to imagine theoretically but you experience them while playing it practically- you lift and place a disc but if you haven’t placed it properly, it again goes back to its original place and many a times I was left wondering whether the move was executed or not!!!

Many people once they try 5 discs, 8 discs etc would say that they now know the method and can do it for any number of discs. I know this but unless you have done it for 12 discs, you cannot say anything. No use saying that you were so close, you would have really done it. There are only 2 things- either you have done it or you have not. You have to decide which category you fall under. If there is anyone out there in the world who has done it with 12 discs like me, please do tell me. I know there will be a few but I am not absolutely sure.

If you have some free time and like challenges and love to achieve difficult targets and exercise your brain and experience a wide variety of emotions (I felt almost mentally vulnerable and delicate in the course of it!) I recommend this game and don’t tell me if you have completed it with any number of discs below 12. It is not difficult in the way you can imagine, but it is in so many other ways which you will come to know in the course of the game.

I had decided that I won’t leave it close to the end, feeling I would have definitely done it. I had to go all the way as I felt that it is what gives one strength and crystallization of the self- a concept of Gurdjieff I guess!
Fact - The Tower of Hanoi (sometimes referred to as the Tower of Brahma or the End of the World Puzzle) was invented by the French mathematician, Edouard Lucas, in 1883, inspired by a legend that tells of a Hindu temple where the pyramid puzzle might have been used for the mental discipline of young priests.
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