Turing Tumble Community

You have a problem

I’m afraid that this device suffers from exactly the same problem that virtually every other scientific instrument does - to the complete novice, it’s purpose and operation is poorly explained.
The videos and reviews say that it can help with logic and mathematical puzzles, but I have yet yet to find a single instructional video to explain exactly how. Nowhere is there an explanation of how marbles rolling down a board works out mathematical puzzles. It looks like nothing more than a game of pachinko to me.
And understand this - with a PhD in Chemistry I am not stupid - I just don’t know anything about coding. The mistake you are making is exactly the same as ALL scientific instrument manufacturers make - they assume knowledge in their audience that they simply DON’T have. The manuals, and instructional videos are made by the people that made the thing, but their knowledge base is vastly greater than their customers. Here are two suggestions:

  1. Get the marketing videos made by a novice - someone that has never used one before. Show them how it works and what it can do and let THEM make the video. They will be able to relate to your potential buyers (people like me) because they are (by definition) novices too.
  2. Make a video with an example of how a puzzle can be solved - just a simple one. I found one video by a young guy that did 4/2. Hats off to the guy for having a go at it, but even HE assumed knowledge that I didn’t have. All I saw was a series of balls rolling down the board and landing in different locations, with no explanation of how it was solving a maths puzzle.
    In conclusion, if this is all it’s cracked up to be I’ll certainly buy one, but from where I sit, so far it looks like nothing more than a glorified game of pachinko.
    I’d suggest you find someone - not the creator - that knows how to explain it to the general public in laymen’s terms. If you don’t, then no matter how clever you are, or how clever the device is, you will have wasted your time, and more importantly, your money.

The key difference between this and Pachinko is that in the latter, the fate of each ball launched into the machine is as unpredictable as can be managed; in Turing Tumble, you should be able to predict exactly what the device will do before you press the start lever.

Each of the puzzles tells you how to set up the board, and what pattern you’re aiming to produce once the balls stop falling, then gives you a bunch of pieces you can add to the board to get it to do what’s wanted.

It should be obvious that figuring out how to use known components to achieve a specified result from a deterministic device is an exercise in logical thinking. As for where the mathematics comes in, for starters, logic is a branch of mathematics. Also, some of the puzzles are to do basic arithmetic with the representations of numbers - how numbers are represented in Turing Tumble is one of the things that you are expected to learn through the course of the puzzles.

It feels like you’re looking for more from the videos about the game than is reasonable - if you were investigating a course on RNA synthesis, would you expect videos about the course or the blurb on the back of the coursebook to explain how to synthesise RNA?


You state you aren’t an expert. Clearly, also not an educational expert either. I don’t think you need to damn with faint praise, or insult the intelligence of the developers. I don’t have a PhD in Chemistry, but let me tell you about how people are failing to teach chemistry correctly…

I am not insulting the intelligence of the developers. The very opposite actually. Are you familiar with the Dunning Kruger effect? Is essence, stupid people make the mistake of assuming that they are smart and everyone else is stupid. Intelligent people make exactly the opposite mistake - they assume that other people are smarter than they are.
One of the results of this is that intelligent people very easily fall into the trap of assuming that just because something is obvious to them, it is obvious to everyone else. This is, I believe, the mistake that the developers of this device have made - they assume things are obvious to others that aren’t obvious at all.
You say I am not an educational expert? Actually I am. That’s why I bothered contacting this site. If this device is everything it is cracked up to be then it could be a world changer. But unfortunately, if it’s marketed poorly, then all the development that has gone into it will be wasted.
In other words, I am trying to help. Please view my comments in that light.
I’m exactly the kind of person that is in the centre of your demographic - I’m an intelligent, highly-educated professional with a 7yo son that is very good at maths. And if I don’t understand what this device does, then, as I said "you have a problem."
I remain the only person employed at UOW as an academic in Chemistry without a PhD (I was studying for it at the time) as a result of the fact that I had a recognised gifting as an educator.
And the principle is this - AND PLEASE LISTEN TO ME - to communicate a chemical concept (or any concept) to a complete novice (I was teaching remedial Chemistry) I had to see the problem through their eyes. That is, I had to interpret what I had put up on the board through the eyes of someone the didn’t know a thing about Chemistry.
And so it is in this case. I don’t know a thing about mathematical logic. Nothing. I have no idea how a computer works. Things that are simple, straightforward and obvious to you (or the people that designed this device) are entirely foreign to me. All I see ar4e marbles rolling down a board.
All I’m asking for is an instructional video that solves a specific puzzle. Something simple. Either a simple arithmetical problem or a simple logic puzzle. And then go through it component by component, explaining what each one does. Explain it using simple language. Surely that’s not too much to ask.
Once again, look on this as constructive criticism. If this device can help educate people you’ll find no more enthusiastic supporter than me. Hell, I’ll even pubicize it on my website. www.drchemical.com.au
Also, if you Google “Dr Chemical” you’ll find that I have a minor media presence on TV here in Perth. I’ll happily contact my producer on your behalf and see if I can get you onto Today Tonight - about 250,000 viewers each night. And the Perth stories also get shown in Adelaide, which has an even greater audience.
As I’ve said, this is constructive criticism designed to help you market what is, I’m sure, a very clever idea. Please view it as such.


Firstly, please view my comments as constructive criticism. I am giving you the viewpoint of a highly educated, highly intelligent professional that knows nothing about mathematical logic. Moreover I have a 7yo son who is very good at maths. I’d love to buy him one of these things if I could only find out what it actually does.
And your answer illustrates exactly the very point I’m making. See my comments below in my other reply about the Dunning Kruger effect.

You say “It should be obvious that figuring out how to use known components to achieve a specified result from a deterministic device is an exercise in logical thinking”

I have no doubt that whatever it is you say is obvious is indeed obvious to you. No doubt at all. Judging by the terms you use I assume that you are a computer/mathematical person. But to a non-mathematical person (me) it is anything but obvious. I barely even understand your sentence.

For what it’s worth this is a very common mistake for instructional videos or documentation pertaining to scientific instruments. I have yet to read a manual written for a scientific instrument (and this is the field and that my PhD is in) that is well-written. Without exception, they assume knowledge in their reader that they do not have.

And as for your comments about RNA, I have actually written an instructional material for this device: https://www.gehealthcare.com/products/hemodynamic-recording/maclab-recording-systems

The first version of this device was an electrochemical instrument. It was designed to use a technique called Anodic Stripping Voltammetry (ASV). In my explanation I used Laymans terms, drawing an analogy between “stripping” in a chemical sense and “stripping” in the sense of stripping paint. It assumed no knowledge of chemistry and explained things in Layman’s terms.
And in more general terms, to answer your question, if I produced some sort of software package that was designed as an educational tool to, for example, help people understand reaction mechanisms, I wouldn’t start with something as complex as RNA. I would choose the simplest chemical process I could think of - perhaps 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O.

All I am asking for with this device is that someone takes the time to demonstrate, using a specific example, how it works. Pick a simple puzzle, and explain, piece by piece, how it works (avoiding words such as deterministic). Then show it to a complete novice and ask them if they understand it. If they don’t go back and do it again, and again as necessary. And I’d further suggest that you employ marketing companies to do focus groups, to understand the point I’m making.
I wouldn’t have thought that would be hard to do.

Once again, please view this as constructive criticism. I am trying to help. It’s taken me the best part of 2 hours to compose these two replies, and let me tell you, I can easily think of other things I could have done with that time.
I have a minor media profile here on Perth on TV and I will do everything I can to assist with the marketing of what I am sure it is a very clever device - once I know what it actually does


Sorry, but I’m a teenager and I understand it more than you do. Have fun studying chemistry!

The problem with asking to explain what each individual component in a solution does is that it’s a bit like asking someone to explain how to use a calculator by telling you what each electronic component does.

I can try to talk you through the very first problem. You start with the board with 6 green “ramps” and 8 blue balls loaded into the top:
You are allowed to add up to 4 more ramps to complete your solution, and then, by triggering a blue ball’s release and then letting the system run until everything stops moving again, you need to get all 8 blue balls into the output tray at the bottom.

Ramps face either to the right or to the left, take a ball dropped onto them from above-right or above-left, and drop it onto the next component down in the direction they’re facing. With the starting setup, if you release a blue ball, it’ll come down off the blue input path onto the top ramp, roll down to the right onto the next ramp, where it’ll roll down to the left onto the third ramp, which will drop it into open space since there isn’t a component diagonally below and to the right of that third ramp to catch the ball. That’s a problem. Physically, sometimes the balls will still do what you want after dropping through one or more empty spaces, but, even if they land on a suitable component further down the board, they tend to bounce wildly and unpredictably, so there’s an additional rule: except at the bottom of the board, you always have to drop the ball directly onto another component, never into an empty space.

When a ball reaches the bottom of the board, if it’s on the left side, it will trigger the release of a blue ball; on the right, it will release a red ball. In both cases, it’ll only actually release a ball if there’s one waiting at the top.

So the big-picture here is to complete a path so that when a blue ball is released, it rolls safely from component to component all the way down to the bottom, ending up on the left side to release a new blue ball. To do that, simply add the 4 new ramps to give:
Now, counting from the top, the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth ramps will drop the ball down and to the right onto the next ramp, while the even-numbered ramps will drop the ball down and to the left onto the next ramp, with the exception of the tenth ramp, which will drop the ball into the left output, where it triggers a new blue ball to be released then gets added to the output rack. The next blue ball will follow the same path, dropping from ramp to ramp and triggering a third blue ball to be released. The eighth blue ball will attempt to trigger a ninth, but since there isn’t one, no ninth ball will be released, and the eighth ball will just roll down to the output rack leaving a row of 8 blues in the output:

Puzzle 21 asks to load any number of blue balls between 1 and 15 (inclusive) into the input, and then count how many there are. The puzzle leaves out the 5 left-facing ramps, but figuring out where to put them should be automatic after completing the first 20 puzzles, so the solution is:
The blue components are “bits” and can point either left or right. When a ball drops onto one, the bit changes to the other direction, and sends the ball in that new direction. So when the first blue ball is released, it will fall onto the top bit, which will switch from left to right, and the ball will drop out to the right. From there, it will drop from ramp to ramp, alternating right and left, until it reaches the bottom on the left and releases a new blue ball.

The second blue ball will drop onto the now right-facing top bit, and switch it back to the left, with the ball also dropping to the left, where a ramp drops it onto the second bit, which will switch from left to right, dropping the ball to the right, where it will zig-zag down the ramps to release the third blue ball. That will switch the top bit from left to right, and then zig-zag down the ramps on the right, giving:
Of the 11 blue balls I started with, 3 are in the output, 1 is just starting its journey, and 7 are waiting in the input hopper. Meanwhile, the top two bits have been switched, so the four bits that (reading from the top) started LLLL are now RRLL.

The fourth ball will switch the top bit to the left, getting fed back into the second bit, which will also switch to the left, feeding the ball into the third bit, which will switch to the right, after which the ball will zigzag to the bottom. The new pattern will be LLRL. The top two bits are now back how they started, so the next three balls, balls 5, 6 and 7, will follow the same paths as balls 1, 2 and 3, with the only difference being that the third bit is pointing right throughout rather than left.

After ball 7, with the pattern RRRL, the eighth ball will, like the fourth, reach the third bit after setting the first two to the left. Unlike with ball 4, the third bit is currently to the right, so switches to the left, and ball 8 drops to the left and then off the ramp there to the bottom bit, which is set to the right, giving the pattern LLLR. For the remaining balls (9, 10 and 11), the same paths as balls 1, 2 and 3 are again followed, going through patterns RLLR, LRLR and finally RRLR:

The only question then is how to interpret that board-state as a number. The key is binary arithmetic: interpreting R as 1 and L as 0 and reading from the bottom, looking at the state of the board as each new ball is released, it goes: 0000, 0001, 0010, 0011, 0100, 0101, 0110, 0111, 1000, 1001, 1010, 1011 - the binary representations of numbers zero to eleven in order. If the balls hadn’t run out, it would have continued counting in binary all the way up to fifteen (1111), then the sixteenth ball would have reset the counter to zero because there isn’t a fifth bit there to allow five-bit numbers to be represented.

Binary numbers? Normally we work in the decimal, or base-10 system, where the rightmost digit (ignoring fractions) is the units digit, or ones digit, the next digit over is the tens digit, followed by hundreds digit, thousands digit, ten-thousands digit, hundred-thousands digit, millions digit, and so on. The value of a number in this system is what you get when you multiply the value of the digit in a given position by the value of that position for every digit in the number, and then add those products together. For example, 527 is five hundreds, plus two tens, plus seven ones, or five hundred plus twenty plus seven or five hundred and twenty seven. In this system, each position is worth ten times as much as the position to its right. In the binary system, rather than going up in tens, you go up in twos - each position is worth twice as much as the position to the right, and you only need two digits - 0 and 1 - to represent any number. For example, 1011 is (reading from right to left) one one, plus one two, plus zero fours, plus one eight, or one plus two plus eight, or eleven.

You can use a similar (but subtly different) layout to count down instead of up, and, with a bit of thought, you can combine those two layouts so that you have two numbers, each represented by a column of bits, and count one down while the other counts up until the one counting down reaches 0, and stop the machine there (using an “interceptor” piece that just catches a ball and stops the machine without it needing to run out of balls) in order to add the two numbers together.

Meanwhile, have you checked out the education resource page - https://edu.turingtumble.com/ - the educator guide - https://www.turingtumble.com/edu/Turing%20Tumble%20Educator%20Guide%201_0.pdf - offers advice, background information and guidance for using the first 30 puzzles in a classroom, which might shed more light on matters.


Why do you understand it?

That’s a good explanation. Thank you for taking the time to compose it. What a shame that this type of information isn’t available on their website. I fear that this will be yet another clever idea that fails commercially because of poor marketing.
But in a broader sense, an explanation of how it works is nowhere near as important as an explanation of what it can do. In other words, I haven’t ploughed through the details of your explanation yet, but I can understand the concept, and for me to know what it can do, and therefore whether I should buy one, that’s what’s important.
From a marketing POV that’s what they should be doing. For example, I don’t know how sophisticated the calculations are that it can do, but could it for example do simultaneous equations with 3 variables: John, Mary and Stephen each went shopping for apples. The total number of apples they bought was 34. John had 5 more than Mary and Stephen had 6 less than John - that’s just something I thought up off the top of my head - is that the kind of thing it could calculate?
I sure hope the creators of this device are reading this. Hey guys - tell us what it can actually do - not vague generalities but specific examples of specific puzzles. I don’t know the details of the puzzle book that comes with it, but it looks a little esoteric to me - I’d come up with a series os stand-alone logic puzzles - as part of your advertising and marketing and say "here are some examples of what it can do"
Unless it’s marketed better than is being done at the moment, then I’m afraid all it will be seen as is a niche product for geeks and nerds that have to understand computers before they can use it.

That’s how it comes across at the moment. This is constructive criticism - please take it on board. I wish you every success with this device and want to help

1 Like

That’s probably because you have used one. I haven’t. You are a very rude, disrespectful and naive young man. When you get older you will learn to recognise constructive criticism when you see it.

The manual does exactly what you are requesting. It explains each part before requiring its use in a puzzle and only adds new parts after several puzzles with the current part.

The example problem you propose is beyond the capabilities of the board as it stands - you can’t represent numbers bigger than 31 (well, you can cheat a bit).

The idea is not to build a useful calculator or computer (at least not without a much, much, much bigger board and a lot of additional components) - the idea is to build something simple, that you can see and understand how it works, and which is capable of doing basic arithmetic - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, provided all the numbers involved are fairly small (probably limited to 0-15). It can also be set up to play Nim.

Like the allegorical dancing bear, the impressive thing is not how gracefully it “dances”, but that it dances at all.

1 Like

I’m sure it does. But you don’t get the manual until you buy the device. And you don’t buy the device until you first know what it does.
In other words, you had to tell me what’s in the manual because I don’t have one. The reason I don’t have one is that I haven’t bought one. The reason I haven’t bought one is that up until this evening no one (thanks msgrey) had told me what it actually does.

I understand it because of all the marketing that led up to it.

“you can’t represent numbers bigger than 31 (well, you can cheat a bit).”

If you arrange your bits on a slant instead of stacked vertically, you should be able to represent numbers up to 127 without doing anything I would imagine you are describing as ‘cheating’ (ex. chaining using both red & blue balls, using the gearbit, etc.)

By the way, if you do not consider chaining red-to-blue balls a ‘cheat’, then you can add up to 2,047. Here is an example of this if you start with the red trigger

Well I didn’t. As I’ve said several times now, if a person as educated as me, and with an IQ as high as mine doesn’t understand it, simply because I do not have a mathematical background (which you clearly do) then it’s being poorly marketed. I’m trying to help. Not sure why you can’t understand that simple point. It’s not rocket surgery

Geez, the book explains, so READ THE BOOK!

Or read the educator’s manual I sent you.

I really hope my chemistry professor isn’t you.