Puzzles

large_puzzle_done2.jpg My sister's family gave Ben a 2000-piece puzzle for Christmas, a 1770's map of the world (words in French and Italian). We finally finished it. Some of us are slightly obsessive about such things. Actually this one was quite fun - the colors and rough patterns didn't tell you much about where any given piece would fit in, but the detail (words, detailed pattern) did, if you looked closely at the box and piece. A little different from many such puzzles.

It's not clear exactly what the origin of the map was, which the puzzle was based on - the box just said "Historical Map". It clearly had a very unclear concept of the Antarctic and Australia regions, but otherwise seems pretty close. The surrounding little boxes were scenes from the Old Testament, including a couple from the apocrypha (Tobit and Judith). The white circles with curves are various different systems for understanding the solar system - Ptolemies, Copernicus', DesCartes', etc. The diagrams in the upper middle show lunar and solar eclipses. Funny how they mixed religion and basic science back then. large_puzzle_partial2.jpg

The partially completed map shows the plan of attack we had - getting edges first, framing the regions, before solving the details. The techniques you develop in solving jigsaw puzzles are excellent training for a scientific world-view, and I've always found the puzzle a wonderful metaphor for the truths of nature and reality. The main difference is that as youngsters we're only given a "picture" that is roughly framed, an accumulation of the experience of those who've preceded us - and in some cases that "picture" is at least ever so slightly wrong. As we grow and learn more about the world we fit the pieces together to form our own detailed picture. New discoveries bring new puzzle sections into play, and if we've gotten everything right so far, they will naturally fit in with all of the pieces we already have.

But there are some folks so insistent on sticking with the faulty "pictures" given them from some source or other, they insist on jamming pieces together will-nilly, and turning a blind eye to the misfits, the illogic, the lack of a coherent final picture of the world when you do that. Doing the puzzle right leads to beauty and understanding. Doing it wrong, well, maybe there's no hope for some people.