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Friday 14 May 2021

The pleasure of the senses Electronic data processing

Electronic data processing

Author of the content

To the nice phonetic combination 'E Di Pi' (eletronic data processing) with 'Edìpi' (lovers of puzzles) certainly does not match an effective and valid application of the computer to the art of composing and solving puzzles. Fortunately, since otherwise puzzles would have lost a lot of their hobby; and to their satisfaction, since this “non result” is a recognition of how irreplaceable intuition and synthesis are.

An issue of the Italian edition of "Scientific, American" from the distant 80s was dedicated precisely to the possibility of the computer to appropriate the mental processes of man and Terry Allen Winograd argued that «linguistic symbols can be easily manipulated, but every attempt dealing with meaning by automatic means is hindered by the ambiguity of languages ​​». On the computer, it is true, it is possible to order any logical process as long as it is precisely and rigorously established its fields and rules; however, it will be impossible to transfer to him the immediate perception of a non sense.

The anagram is a very used topic for such approaches and attempts; and substantial is the contribution of the machine in an operation of permutation of signs. One of the methods used, as we have seen, is to transfer all the words of the language to the computer, making them memorize through an alphanumeric notation ordered alphabetically like the one that has already happened to indicate. All 'input 'helicopter', it was said, the computer will search in its warehouse for the representative words in an equivalent way and will come out heteroclite; but not beetles (plural) and least of all bleak sky (phrase).

Moreover, such a procedure involves a very boring preparatory phase and its limits are represented by the finite number of words introduced, susceptible to various derivations (truncated words, plurals, proper names, foreign phrases); moreover, it is clear that everything remains reduced to the "simple anagram", without being able to easily include the variants involving the sentence. On the other hand, the most effective combinations are of this type, with sometimes stupendous examples, which are not limited to the simple and fortunate coincidence of signs but, in addition, can also enclose a close link between the two parts:

honeymoon pleasant duels
the great treasure of the heavens it is the religion of Christ
librarian blessed with books

The puzzle-computer clash, in these terms, ended (and ends) with the defeat of the machine. The computer would undoubtedly have done more in the following, but certainly not reverse the result; it was possible to elaborate a more open program, free from initial predesignations, but which was however affected by a plurality of results, not all of which were significant. The program was based on the elimination of all permutations of theinput (word or phrase) that included incompatible literal structures (plurivocalic or pluriconsonant unacceptable sequences); This led to a set of combinations not necessarily with meaning, but verifiable by a quick reading. As for the yield, it was evidently greater some times than others, depending on the vowel-consonant structure: in any case in number of n! (n factorial) permutations, but the machine will offer only a part of them to read, a complex function of the initial input.

For the FREE set, for example, involving 720 permutations, the series resulted


comprising only 20 structurally valid solutions, among which to search for the only significant one: STRAGI. A further step forward would have been obtained with a program containing the lemmas of a dictionary and therefore excluding non-existent words.

Nowadays, sophisticated programs are available which, with the same procedure, also anagram sentences; naturally also in this case the results must be screened by eliminating the succession of words that do not realize any meaning.

However, the machine will always remain excluded from non-codified evaluations, from intuitive and synthetic processes, which instead recognize themselves as fundamental in this playful activity as particular as the enigmistic is. It has been possible to arrive at a more or less perfect simultaneous translator computer, but it will hardly be possible to think of a puzzle computer.

Read also:
The “pi” day

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