Kabir Firaque

Puzzles Editor Kabir Firaque is the author of the weekly column Problematics. A journalist for three decades, he also writes about science and mathematics.

Articles by Kabir Firaque

Explained: What new data on SARS-CoV-2 says about Covid origin, what it doesn’t

Covid origin: Scientists on Tuesday published arguments in favour of the theory that the virus possibly infected the first humans at Wuhan’s animal market. The scientists make a strong case for their argument but the analysis does not conclusively establish their theory

International scientists have examined previously unavailable genetic data from samples collected at a market in China close to where the first human cases of Covid-19 were detected and said they have found suggestions the pandemic originated from animals, not a lab. (AP File Photo)
Updated on Mar 23, 2023 09:33 PM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | A password to puzzles with Jamie Lee Curtis

On December 19, 2022, I invited you to crack my password to the account where I store my puzzles. Since you did, I had to change my password for security reasons — and I used JAMIE LC for inspiration. Here are #Week30's puzzles.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Mar 20, 2023 01:44 PM IST

Problematics | Rubik’s colours and Pythagorean triples

This week's puzzles include a mischievous child, a Rubik's cube, and the Pythagorean triangle. Good luck!

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Mar 15, 2023 10:12 AM IST

Behind room-temp superconductivity

A paper in Nature this week by scientists from the University of Rochester, who claim that they have created a material that achieves superconductivity at room temperature, has been met with a degree of scepticism. That is because the team’s earlier work has been controversial.

Study authors Ranga Dias (left) and Nugzari Khalvashi-Sutter in the lab. (Source: J Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)
Published on Mar 11, 2023 11:45 AM IST

Problematics | In the name of Einstein, match the following

Creating a full-length Einstein puzzle, I found, can be an exhausting but ultimately rewarding exercise. Here you go.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Mar 06, 2023 03:54 PM IST

The weight of life: Cattle 40% of all mammals by mass, wild animals 6%

Almost 40% of mammals by mass in the world are cattle, and with India accounting for around 30% of the world’s cattle according to the US Department of Agriculture, Indian cattle should account for around 12% of the mammalian biomass in the world

For Representation
Updated on Mar 02, 2023 04:59 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | The price of mixing apples and oranges

It may be fine to compare apples with oranges, but you should be wary about mixing the two, except perhaps in a fruit salad. Here’s why.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Feb 28, 2023 08:45 AM IST

Problematics | Untold story about a hare and a tortoise

This week, one of the two puzzles may include some information you don’t really need. Good luck!

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Feb 20, 2023 01:09 PM IST

Eye in the sky: Satellites, drones... back to balloons

New Delhi As a tool for surveillance, the balloon might come across as dated in this age of satellites and drones

Sailors assigned to Assault Craft Unit 4 prepare material recovered in the Atlantic Ocean from a high-altitude Chinese balloon shot down by the US Air Force off the coast of South Carolina for transport to federal agents at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on February 10, 2023 in this image released by the US Navy in Washington. (REUTERS)
Updated on Feb 16, 2023 01:53 PM IST

Lithium Rush: The discovery and the difficulties

Lithium is often described as the white gold of energy storage technology; light and compact, it is the defining element in the lithium-ion batteries that drive our mobile phones, laptops and, in some cases, electric cars

Reasi: A villager shows lithium stones in Reasi district, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has for the first time established 5.9 million tonnes of inferred resources of lithium in the Salal-Haimana area of Jammu & Kashmir. (PTI Photo)(PTI02_12_2023_000120A)(PTI)
Updated on Feb 15, 2023 08:12 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | A gift for packing things correctly

This week’s puzzles are somewhat less challenging, but interesting nevertheless. It is, incidentally, a landmark week of sorts: the 25th in an unbroken series of puzzling weeks.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Feb 14, 2023 08:05 AM IST

Problematics | Playing cards, words and a classroom game

Have you ever created something, like a poem or a word game, only to find that someone else has created something similar? This week's puzzles are one of those.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Feb 10, 2023 09:04 AM IST

Why earthquakes happen, and how to measure them

While the difference in the magnitude between the two earthquakes is a mere 0.3, the second one is two times bigger than the first, and released 2.8 times more energy, according to an online tool hosted by the US Geological Survey

People walk amid rubble following an earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, February 7, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (REUTERS)
Published on Feb 07, 2023 09:39 PM IST

Problematics | More tricks to play on impressionable friends

Welcome to week 23 of Problematics! Here are this week's puzzles, admittedly not my own.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Jan 30, 2023 04:57 PM IST

Problematics | The puzzling truth about cats and dogs

For any Monday’s puzzles, please send in your solutions by noon on Friday the same week. This will also be mentioned in the footnote every week. Let's get solving!

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Jan 23, 2023 07:04 PM IST

A timeless debate: How long can a human live?

The death of French nun Lucile Randon, known as Sister André, at age 118 — in fact, 25 days short of her 119th birthday — has revived the perennial question: how long can a person realistically hope to live?

Sister Andre, Lucile Randon in the registry of birth, the eldest French and European citizen, prays in a wheelchair, on the eve of her 117th birthday.
Updated on Jan 20, 2023 01:56 PM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | Think of a number, repeat and recycle

This week's fare is relatively simple, although the puzzles are not exactly sitters.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Jan 17, 2023 03:43 PM IST

Problematics | Watch your hands and how they move

Ignore the second hand and concern yourselves only with the hour and minute hands. Like last week’s Christmas tree puzzle, this one too comes from something I had presented to readers 30 years ago.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Jan 10, 2023 03:34 PM IST

How long does it take to set up an Xmas tree?

I felt the puzzle would work better if I adapted it for readers who are three decades younger. I have changed the form of the original but retained the content.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Jan 02, 2023 01:24 PM IST

Problematics | The mathematics of planning a family

Here's week 18 of Problematics.

Here's week 18 of Problematics.
Updated on Dec 26, 2022 03:13 PM IST

Problematics | A puzzler’s guide to matchmaking

Here's week 17 of Problematics.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Dec 20, 2022 02:40 PM IST

N-fusion: The clean energy the world needs, but may not get soon enough

For the first time, a nuclear fusion experiment has achieved ignition, generating more energy that it consumed. While there are miles to go before fusion can become the source of the world’s energy needs, the results mark a milestone in scientific terms

N-fusion: The clean energy the world needs, but may not get soon enough
Updated on Dec 13, 2022 10:51 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | Flight of fancy: Around the world in how many days?

When someone identifies an error in someone else’s puzzle, it is called “cooking” the puzzle. Here's a simplified adaptation for readers of Problematics!

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Dec 12, 2022 05:24 PM IST

Problematics | Which game is smarter, poker or teen patti?

The Hollywood caper The Sting (1973) includes a memorable depiction of a poker game, in which a lot of cheating is going on. This too is about poker, and the rules of the game now may help you warm up for The Sting later.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Dec 06, 2022 09:07 AM IST

Can hydrogen-fuelled engines be the next big leap in aviation?

In the test on a hydrogen-driven aero engine, Rolls-Royce and easyJet appear to have overcome a crucial challenge that is often mentioned when hydrogen engines are discussed — although hydrogen is meant to be a green fuel, it is produced using electricity, and generating that electricity can involve burning of fossil fuels.

Rolls Royce AE2100 Hydrogen Test at Boscombe Down. (Rolls Royce)
Updated on Nov 29, 2022 02:16 PM IST
By, New Delhi

Problematics | How the crow flies between World Cup football fans

The football World Cup provides the ideal occasion to release a puzzle that I had so far been holding on to. It’s not about football, but involves fans of the game. And it’s not extremely difficult, but it’s fun when you figure out how to solve it.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 28, 2022 01:25 PM IST

Problematics | World Cup goals set on your table

The World Cup is an occasion we cannot ignore. I hope you enjoy solving the following football-related puzzles as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Updated on Nov 22, 2022 01:16 PM IST

Problematics | Play Wordle with these movie titles

Neither of this week’s puzzles is exceptionally tough, but one will require harder work than the other. That one is not mathematical, but a word puzzle that also requires some knowledge of Hollywood:

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 15, 2022 12:24 PM IST

Problematics | The weight of a bulldog and friends

The following kind of puzzle is one involving two equations and three variables, whose values you need not determine while getting to the answers you are looking for.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)
Published on Nov 07, 2022 02:27 PM IST

The science behind the load, span and design of a safe bridge

Different kinds of bridges require different factors to be taken into consideration. HT explains:

Rescue personnel conduct search operations after a bridge across the river Machchhu collapsed at Morbi in Gujarat. (AFP)
Published on Nov 01, 2022 09:46 PM IST
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