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Puzzling formula for TV show's success

China Daily Global| Updated: February 10, 2023 L M S


Contestant Xu Xinkai [Photo provided to China Daily]

Yang could maintain unbreakable concentration and methodical thinking even under great pressure in the show's intensive competitions of solving math and science puzzles and also showed outstanding leadership in teamwork, which Xu says he appreciates.

This year, Xu, now a postgraduate student in astronomy from Nanjing University, gets to compete in the show himself and is likely to be offered a chance to challenge his idol Yang as the latter has been invited to join the newest season, the 10th one.

Before Xu's debut on the show, he wrote a letter to Yang, which roughly goes as: "You're a hero who could confidently map out strategies for your team and make your way up to the final victory, which inspired me to get closer to you step by step. I hope that my participation in the show could also bring courage to other people who might be at a loss in the same way you did with me."

So far Xu has been smoothly sailing in the show's challenges, which he says is largely due to the mental skills he has been honing through solving the Rubik's Cube over the past five years.

As a keen viewer of Super Brain, he found that different variations of the iconic puzzle toy are often set as challenges for competitors who work the puzzle quickly and sometimes even blindfolded.

"The puzzle's different configurations bring a lot of fun into the game. The diverse methods these world-class solvers of the Rubik's Cube on the show have applied to figure out solutions improved my understanding of the game," Xu recalls.

Then he went in for the three-dimensional mechanical puzzle. His Rubik's Cube solving ability has been outstanding among this year's 50 contestants on the show.

And, he also found he's good at recognizing faces and comprehending spatial relationships between objects.

"Participating in the show has helped me know more about myself, both my strong points and shortcomings," he says.

Additionally, meeting Yang, now a primary school math teacher, face-to-face has also motivated Xu to start a career in the education sector in the future.

The reality show Super Brain has invited more than 500 contestants from 15 countries to address challenges entailing superb mental strength and acumen since its initiation in January 2014.

With the slogan "making science popular", the show aims to promote science knowledge and unleash the potential of the human brain by upgrading challenges and encouraging wider public participation, according to the show's executive producer Zhang Jingwei.

Generations of young viewers have been inspired to develop scientific thinking and expand their knowledge.

Some even shot to fame on the stage of the show at a very young age. Yang Yinghao is among them. In 2018, he was a grade two student in Hangzhou Wenlan Middle School and had obtained several prizes in national mathematical Olympiad competitions.

He also formed an interest in informatics Olympiad. When watching competitors solving complicated puzzles in Super Brain, he thought maybe he could sign up for the show and have fun. After rounds of shortlisting, the then-14-year-old joined the show and successfully bulldozed his way to the finals.

His young age and unexpectedly stable, outstanding performance throughout the fifth season won him a big fan base.

"The wide attention I received during the show has urged me to keep going on and embrace a better self," he says.

He is now a freshman at Westlake University and is determined to probe into the domain of artificial intelligence.

This year, he competed in the show again. An enjoyable part of participating for him has been hanging out with other contestants.

"Many of them are able to strike a balance between academic advancement and entertaining hobbies," he says.

"And talking with older intellects makes it clear to me how to explore more life possibilities."

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