AlgoMantra, b. 2005

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Thursday, September 18, 2008
The Towers of Brahma
...or, what you might know as Towers of Hanoi, a game as legendary as Tetris and Pong, has a nice myth behind it:
There is a legend about a Vietnamese or Indian temple which contains a large room with three time-worn posts in it surrounded by 64 golden disks. The priests of Brahma, acting out the command of an ancient prophecy, have been moving these disks, in accordance with the rules of the puzzle. The puzzle is therefore also known as the Tower of Brahma puzzle. According to the legend, when the last move of the puzzle is completed, the world will end. It is not clear whether Lucas invented this legend or was inspired by it. The Tower of Hanoi is a problem often used to teach beginning programming, in particular, as an example of a simple recursive algorithm.

If the legend were true, and if the priests were able to move disks at a rate of one per second, using the smallest number of moves, it would take them 2^64−1 seconds or roughly 600 billion years. There are many variations on this legend. For instance, in some tellings, the temple is a monastery and the priests are monks. The temple or monastery may be said to be in different parts of the world — including Hanoi, Vietnam, and may be associated with any religion. In some versions, other elements are introduced, such as the fact that the tower was created at the beginning of the world, or that the priests or monks may make only one move per day.

And Hanoimania is a website dedicated to the Hanoi and computers. There is even a Hanoi OS,"a bootable operating system for the x86 processor that solves the Hanoi puzzle as its primary task"..... apart from other obsessive oddities. It's a total WTF.


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