Logo ideas; getting off the garden path. Robert Lawler.
Getting off the Garden Path
Some problems are terribly difficult because they tempt you to set up your description in an unproductive way--and lead you that way down a dead end path to useless fretting. Here's a good example of such a problem, one that you might run into at a party:
You need people who are willing to work at the problem as couples. You need string and a little ability to tie knots. Here's what you do. Take one string and tie it loosely around the wrists of one "victim.' (Leave about two feet of string between the wrists.) The circle of string, arms and body forms the first loop. Pass the second string through the first victim's loop and tie each end loosely around the wrist of the partner. Passing the second string through the first victim's loop made the loops interlocking. The puzzle is how these two victims can separate without cutting the string or untying the knots.
Your victims might get angry if you don't help them solve the problem. Maybe you should try it yourself before imposing on anyone else.
Most everybody sees the string, arms and body as forming a loop. This is what puts them on the dead end of the garden path. After they have been told it's illegal to slip the string loop off the end of their arms from around the wrists, they frequently try all sorts of contortions to get free, then give up. Have you given up yet? Do you see how to solve the problem?
A critical question to ask here is "what can I really count on?' Note that if the arms, body and string really do form a loop the problem can not be solved. That whole way of looking at the problem must be wrong. Next notice that the places where the might be a break in the loop can't be between the body and arms; it has to be at the wrists. There are four wrists, but if you can get the string past one of them the problem is solved. Focus on one wrist and try to think of a different way of seeing the problem. I think of it as being like the picture below:
The first string and loop go ground the wrist at one end and then off somewhere else. The problem is now to get the second string out from under te first. It's easy, isn't it: through the loop, over the fist and down on the outside. This sort of problem can only be solved after you get off the garden path.
1. When you have a difficult problem, it can be very important to ask yourself, "what can I really count on in the way I am describing the problem?'
2. A second good question, when you are looking for a new way to describe a problem is "What is the point at which there is something unusual or unclear?' Focus your attention on that point.