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Mathematicians tried to prove how hard The Witness is – with surprising results

“Each clue type ended up offering a whole interesting problem to study.”

The Witness is a curious, persnickety game. On one hand, it is heralded as a champion of pretentiousness. On the other, it is widely lauded for its mathematical complexity. The Witness’ rules are mapped by symbols on its chessboard grids, and although they look quite simple, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye – so much so that some study what exactly makes The Witness’ problems difficult at a doctoral level.

Erik Demaine, a professor in computer science at MIT, primarily focuses on research and teaching, and often combines the two by tasking students with solving open problems in groups. To do this, Demaine uses a highly collaborative style of research called supercollaboration.

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