One day a really rich old man with two sons died. In his will he said that he would give one of his sons all of his fortune. He gave each of his sons a horse and said they would compete in a horse race from Los Angeles to Sacramento, but the son whose horse came in second would get the money.
So one day they started the race. After one whole day they had only ridden one mile. At night they decided they should stop at a hotel. While they were booking in they told their problem to the wise old clerk, who made a suggestion. The next day the two brothers rode as fast as they could. What did the clerk suggest that they do?
The clerk told them to swap horses. The father said that whoever's horse crossed the finish line second would get the money. He didn't say that the owner of the horse had to be on it.
A king has 100 identical servants, each with a different rank between 1 and 100. At the end of each day, each servant comes into the king's quarters, one-by-one, in a random order, and announces his rank to let the king know that he is done working for the day. For example, servant 14 comes in and says "Servant 14, reporting in."
One day, the king's aide comes in and tells the king that one of the servants is missing, though he isn't sure which one.
Before the other servants begin reporting in for the night, the king asks for a piece of paper to write on to help him figure out which servant is missing. Unfortunately, all that's available is a very small piece that can only hold one number at a time. The king is free to erase what he writes and write something new as many times as he likes, but he can only have one number written down at a time.
The king's memory is bad and he won't be able to remember all the exact numbers as the servants report in, so he must use the paper to help him.
How can he use the paper such that once the final servant has reported in, he'll know exactly which servant is missing?
When the first servant comes in, the king should write down his number. For each other servant that reports in, the king should add that servant's number to the current number written on the paper, and then write this new number on the paper.
Once the final servant has reported in, the number on the paper should equal
(1 + 2 + 3 + ... + 99 + 100) - MissingServantsNumber
Since (1 + 2 + 3 + ... + 99 + 100) = 5050, we can rephrase this to say that the number on the paper should equal
5050 - MissingServantsNumber
So to figure out the missing servant's number, the king simply needs to subtract the number written on his paper from 5050:
MissingServantsNumber = 5050 - NumberWrittenOnThePaper