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Mating Games and Lizards

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Author:Ivars Peterson (MathLand)
Description: Is there a winning strategy for the game Scissors-Paper-Rock? It certainly doesn't make sense to show the same configuration each time. An alert opponent would quickly learn to anticipate your move, make the appropriate response, and always win. A similar danger lies in following any kind of pattern. Thus, unless you can find a flaw in your opponent's play, your best bet is to mix the three choices in a random manner. Of course, this isn't a completely satisfying result. If you stick to a strategy of random choices, your opponent can't profit. But then, you can't profit from your opponent's mistakes either. Curiously, the scissors-paper-rock game has a counterpart in the mating rituals of a certain species of lizard native to California. Instead of just one mating strategy, these lizards have three, distinct types of behavior that constantly compete with one another in a perpetual cycle of dominance.

Levels: High School (9-12), College
Languages: English
Resource Types: Problems/Puzzles, Articles
Math Topics: Probability, Animal Biology

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