Sunzi’s Ancient Art of Cheating

i-01e6c6044c7d27fff2224074a080b316-ancient_art_of_war-6.gifWhen I was a kid I enjoyed playing the 1984 computer war game Sun Tzu’s Ancient Art of War. Last spring I visited Tiger Hill in Suzhou where there is a small temple to the great strategist’s memory.

The game is good fun, not least thanks to the scenario editor that was years before its time and allowed an unusual level of creativity. However, my friend David and I eventually discovered an “exploit” that pretty much ruined the game for us. Here’s what we did.

The game keeps track of each troop unit’s fatigue level. Fresh troops fight way better than tired ones. What we found out was a way to always have fresh troops. You see, fatigue is registered on the unit level, not on the level of individual soldiers.

When on your way to battle with fresh troops, detach one guy (Ernie) to stay behind and take a nap or something. After the battle, your main force will be fatigued, and Ernie will be fresh. If you add Ernie back to the main unit, he will become as fatigued as they are. But if, instead, you add the main unit to Ernie… everybody’s suddenly rested again.

I wonder if even old Sunzi knew of this trick.


I Have A Hidden Pill Compartment

Went to bed with a headache, woke up intermittently during the night to find it still there, and got up in the morning with the same headache or one very similar to it. So I took an aspirin, which stuck in my throat, as pills usually do. I figured it would slide down along with my breakfast. The headache receded after a cup of caffeine solution and I forgot about my pill.

After more than five hours, during which I had no trouble eating or breathing, I coughed the pill up, unchanged. Where was it in the interim!? Can most people swallow pills without nibbling them to gravel, as I usually have to?

2011 Enlightener & Obscurantist Awards

i-230db6e878da54fec87ff8136882123f-Hjarnkontoret-barn-svt-ny-180.jpgThe Swedish Skeptics, of whom I am the chairman, have just announced their annual awards for 2011 [ab].

The Swedish public TV show Hjärnkontoret receives the Enlightener of the Year award,

“…for their excellent science coverage directed towards children. Hjärnkontoret has aired for 16 years and thus contributed to the upbringing of the entire current generation of students and young scientists at Swedish universities. Thanks to its welcoming format and accessible time slot on public television, Hjärnkontoret reaches out to children of all backgrounds, thus widening and democratising the recruitment of future scientists. Furthermore, the show increases knowledge and appreciation of science among the public at large.”

The Enlightener of the Year receives a cash prize of SEK 25 000 ($3600, €2800).

The Board for the Environment of Mora and Orsa municipalities receives the Obscurantist of the Year anti-award, as it

“… has disregarded scientific knowledge when dealing with so-called electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

Since 2006 the Board has dealt with a complaint including demands that the municipality force cell phone operators to decrease radiation from their antennas. This radiation was said to cause a number of health problems. The Board for the Environment has spent considerable resources on investigating this demand without acknowledging the fact that controlled scientific experiments have never been able to demonstrate any hypersensitivity effects of radio waves. Instead the Board has alleged that the science is uncertain and that a link cannot be excluded. …

People who believe that they are hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields usually experience real symptoms. But there is no scientific support for their interpretation of the cause. Instead, we are usually dealing with a psychosomatic condition. Accepting the sufferers’ interpretation in opposition against scientific medicine is actually a disservice to the people involved.”

See Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Dagens Medicin, Expressen, SR P4 Dalarna,, Dalarnas Tidningar, Dala-demokraten, Eskilstuna-kuriren, Dalarnas Tidningar again, Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. I will add links to more coverage as I find them.