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Can you solve the alien probe riddle? - Dan Finkel


2,077 Questions Answered

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.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

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!

Looking for more math games? Check out the educator’s website.

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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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