Smaller than a Breadbox
Is it an animal?
Is it a vegetable?
Is it a mineral?
Twenty Questions is a spoken parlor game (or car game) which encourages deductive reasoning and creativity. It originated in the USA and escalated in popularity during the late 1940s when it became the format for a successful weekly radio quiz program.
... The most popular variant is called "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral". This is taken from the old, possibly Renaissance, idea that all life was animal, or plant (vegetable), and that non-living (which is to say, never-living) matter must be mineral....
These categories can produce odd technicalities, such as a wooden table being classified as a vegetable (since wood comes from trees).
...The game suggests that the information (as measured by Shannon's entropy statistic) required to identify an arbitrary object is at most 20 bits. The game is often used as an example when teaching people about information theory. Mathematically, if each question is structured to eliminate half the objects, 20 questions will allow the questioner to distinguish between 2 to the 20th power, or 1,048,576, subjects. Accordingly, the most effective strategy for Twenty Questions is to ask questions that will split the field of remaining possibilities roughly in half each time.
The process is analogous to a binary search algorithm in computer science or successive approximation ADC in analog-to-digital signal conversion.
Good to know.
Posted by Sean Bentley at 8:13 AM
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