Lost and Found

The Numbers Game

Nalebuff also says that focal points aren't limited to locations or places. For instance, he says, we all tend to think of certain numbers as distinct from all others. Nalebuff says this is why if you want to quit smoking, it is always best to go cold turkey.

Zero is a number that anyone can understand. Any other number is less effective. If you say, 'I'll cut back to two cigarettes ' well, why not three, or four?

That's why Nalebuff guesses that most people in our game will pick noon as the time to meet. It's the only time that he says would stand out to everyone.

Of course, theory is one thing … reality another. It's easy to think like another person, but in this game our players win only if they actually find one another. Can they?

So, What Happened?

Five of the six pairs ended up connecting near the Washington Monument. Each team spent a lot of time running around to various other monuments, with the idea of leaving messages for someone else to find if they also came by there, but none ever stayed in one place for very long.

However, with noon approaching, all but one of the teams somehow congregated at the Washington Monument. Three teams found each other at the base of the obelisk, two others ran into each other on the mall approaching the monument. As Professor Nalebuff describes it, luck does play a role in Game Theory: "Luck favors the prepared mind!" he said.

As for the final team, which began the day by being dropped off at the docks in Georgetown, they completed a huge circle, and ended up back where they started.

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