Pradeep Mutalik

Puzzle Columnist

insights puzzle

Solution: ‘The Prime Rib Problem’

September 8, 2017

Pradeep Mutalik and Quanta readers explore an open question about prime numbers: What is the lowest valued, longest consecutive sequence of integers that are divisible by a set of prime numbers?

insights puzzle

The Prime Rib Problem

August 14, 2017

Prime numbers are endlessly fascinating to number theorists and math enthusiasts. This month’s puzzle explores primes by cooking up a whimsical dish of grilled snake ribs.

insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Why Are There Two Sexes?’

July 28, 2017

The mathematical concept of parity and the fatal flaw of serial multiplication can help explain why having two sexes usually works better than having one or three.

insights puzzle

Why Are There Two Sexes?

July 7, 2017

Asexual reproduction can produce twice as many offspring as sexual reproduction without the hassle of finding and courting a mate. So why do most complex animals have two sexes? Why not three?

Bongard puzzle stars
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Bongard Problems and Scientific Discovery’

June 28, 2017

Like scientific puzzles, Bongard problems can lead you through a frustrating blind search until you find that simple, elegant rule that fits a seemingly random pattern.

Bongard stars
insights puzzle

Bongard Problems and Scientific Discovery

June 8, 2017

For your frustration, joy and entertainment, our puzzle challenges you to find general patterns or rules based on seemingly random, specific examples.

Hungry giraffe
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Darwinian Evolution Explains Lamarckism’

June 2, 2017

How Darwinian natural selection can produce and sustain a Lamarckian “inheritance of acquired characteristics.”

insights puzzle

Can Darwinian Evolution Explain Lamarckism?

May 11, 2017

Answering three questions can help reveal how the “inheritance of acquired characteristics” fits into modern evolutionary theory.

Illustration: black, numbered cats crossing a calendar. An extra "13" lurks in the background.
insights puzzle

Solution: ‘Friday the 13th’

April 26, 2017

There’s more than one good way to bring order to our unruly, seemingly arbitrary calendar.