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Can you solve the alien probe riddle? - Dan Finkel

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TEDEd Animation

Let’s Begin…

Your team has developed a probe to study an alien monolith. It needs protective coatings — in red, purple and green — to cope with the environments it passes through. Can you figure out how to apply the colors so the probe survives the trip? Dan Finkel shows how.

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A larger 4 by 4 by 4 probe were assembled from 64 smaller cubes. If you needed to paint this in 4 different colors instead of 3, could it be done?

To solve this, you’ll want to think about the solution for the 3-color cube. Paint the entire thing red, then look at how many cubes have 0, 1, 2, or 3 faces painted. Then think of how you could use symmetry to paint the other three colors in as well. Note: the 4-color version of this problem CAN be solved!

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Daniel Finkel
  • Animator Anton Trofimov
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott

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