Why did the chicken cross the road? Which was first: egg or chicken? How can one man get a fox, a chicken, and a sack of corn across a river using a rowboat? What's up with all these chicken questions?
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There is a story that demonstrates that one should not underestimate the power of logic and, above all, the power of multiplication. This same fable also talks about the invention of the game of chess.
The story goes that King Shihram of India was an oppressive tyrant who enjoyed playing games of all kinds. One of his subjects, Sissa ibn Dahir, invented the game of chess as a strategic and training tool, and the king was so pleased with him that he asked Sissa what reward he wanted in return. “Anything you want!” the king would say.
Sissa answered that he would like some rice. He said that the king should put one grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard, two grains on the second square, four grains on the third square, eight grains on the fourth square, and so on, doubling the number of grains of rice with each square.
The King thought he had gotten off easy and laughed at Sissa, but he stopped laughing soon as he saw his servants coming in with barrels and barrels of rice. Until they stopped coming…
The simple math of exponential increase demonstrated that Sissa was no fool: the number of grains of rice on the last square could be written as "2 to the 63rd power", or "2 times itself 63 times". Which is a lot. The total weight of rice would exceed the weight of all living things on earth and make a heap larger than Mount Everest.
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