If the first time you ever walked into an IMAX theater your immediate thought was you wanted to play video games on that big screen, then Thursday at the Kentucky Science Center is your night. In addition to an IMAX-sized screen for video games, the Science Center will bring “Double Dare”-style action, talks on game theory, food trucks and a cash bar as they present Gameology, the latest installment of their popular adult-oriented series.
Lisa Resnik, the Science Center’s director of external affairs, spoke with Insider about the series. She says it was developed for those looking for a fun night — without the kids.
“This adult series allows us to program to people age 21 and over,” she explains. “They can come in and experience the Science Center in a different way — and in a more adult way — but also have fun playing in our exhibits and having the added benefit of learning something in the process.”
The combination of learning and fun is a big thing at the center, and they don’t think either should stop just because somebody is “grown up.”
“Our mission is to encourage people of all ages to do science in educational and entertaining ways,” says Resnik.
The center is offering a wide range of activities for Gameology. The aforementioned video games include multi-player games like “Mario Kart,” “Trials Evolution” and “Alien: Isolation.” For even more rad video-game action, attendees can visit the Vintage Console Lounge featuring classics from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s — “Pac Man” anyone?
Some of the center’s community partners will be on hand to offer other activities as well. Resnik says their partners are important to an institution like the Science Center. “It’s reaching out,” she says. “I’ll say the Kentucky Science Center does an amazing job at using partners.”
Western Kentucky University will present a combination of bingo and exercise they’ve been developing, appropriately named “BINGOcise.” Louisville Trivia and Book & Music Exchange will also be gaming it up.
Resnik was particularly excited about the group game show activities, inspired by “Family Feud” and “Double Dare.” “We will be doing obstacle courses through Science and Play — through the different areas like our Noodle Forrest — and they’ll be all sorts of things the teams have to work on and get through.”
To sign up for the group games, hit the Science Center up on social media before the event.
The center won’t be ignoring the playground of the mind.
“We want everyone to have fun, but there are people who want to understand more,” says Resnik.
Game theorists and programers will be on hand — some through the miracle of Skype and some in person — to talk about their projects and specialties. Insider reached out to one guest presenter, Doug Chatham, who is an associate professor of mathematics at Morehead State University and the interim chair of the department of mathematics and physics. Aside from his dissertation on commutative algebra, Chatham spends his time working on a variation of the classic n-queens problem.
Wait, you haven’t heard of the n-queens problem?
Well, back in 1848, when they didn’t have “Alien: Isolation” to keep people entertained, chess enthusiast Max Bezzel first published the eight queens puzzle. If you place eight queens on a chessboard, can you place the queens in an arrangement where they don’t attack each other? Remember, a queen can move vertically, horizontally or diagonally.
Then in 1850, Franz Nauck published the first solution to the eight queens puzzle and introduced the n-queens problem, where “n” is a variable, suggesting the number of rows and columns on the chessboard can change, as can the number of queens. Things got even trickier.
Chatham’s work revolves around an even more complicated permutation of the problem, but to get all the details, you’ll have to show up and hear his talk at Gameology.
Chatham admits working on the puzzle won’t improve your chess game much. “This is more a mental exercise, seeing what you can do with the pieces and the patterns,” he says.
Of course, the mental exercise itself has worth. The more we learn about the brain, the more we see that it’s like any other muscle — if you want it to stay strong, you need to exercise it.
“That helps keep the mind sharp, hopefully putting off things like dementia,” says Chatham.
Beyond encouraging brain health, the n-queens problem, like many aspects of math and science that may seem purely academic at first glance, has unexpected applications.
“The n-queens problem is currently used to help train computer science students; it’s good for introducing several types of programing techniques,” he adds. “Also, the n-queens problem has been applied to problems of parallel memory storage.”
So the n-queens problem can be used to make computers — and video games better — with better memory. Take that, “Alien: Isolation.”
For all the fun, games and mental edification, check out Gameology on Thursday, May 19, at the Kentucky Science Center, 727 W. Main St. Playtime runs from 6-10 p.m. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members.