A man hijacks an aeroplane transporting both passengers and valuable cargo. After taking the cargo, the man demands two parachutes, puts one of them on, and jumps, leaving the other behind. Why did he want two?
If the officials thought he was jumping with a hostage, they would never risk giving him a faulty parachute.
Mr. Black, Mr. Gray, and Mr. White are fighting in a truel. They each get a gun and take turns shooting at each other until only one person is left. Mr. Black, who hits his shot 1/3 of the time, gets to shoot first. Mr. Gray, who hits his shot 2/3 of the time, gets to shoot next, assuming he is still alive. Mr. White, who hits his shot all the time, shoots next, assuming he is also alive. The cycle repeats. All three competitors know one another's shooting odds. If you are Mr. Black, where should you shoot first for the highest chance of survival?
He should shoot at the ground. If Mr. Black shoots the ground, it is Mr. Gray's turn. Mr. Gray would rather shoot at Mr. White than Mr. Black, because he is better. If Mr. Gray kills Mr. White, it is just Mr. Black and Mr. Gray left, giving Mr. Black a fair chance of winning. If Mr. Gray does not kill Mr. White, it is Mr. White's turn. He would rather shoot at Mr. Gray and will definitely kill him. Even though it is now Mr. Black against Mr. White, Mr. Black has a better chance of winning than before.
You have two lengths of rope. Each rope has the property that if you light it on fire at one end, it will take exactly 60 minutes to burn to the other end. Note that the ropes will not burn at a consistent speed the entire time (for example, it's possible that the first 90% of a rope will burn in 1 minute, and the last 10% will take the additional 59 minutes to burn).
Given these two ropes and a matchbook, can you find a way to measure out exactly 45 minutes?
The key observation here is that if you light a rope from both ends at the same time, it will burn in 1/2 the time it would have burned in if you had lit it on just one end.
Using this insight, you would light both ends of one rope, and one end of the other rope, all at the same time. The rope you lit at both ends will finish burning in 30 minutes. Once this happens, light the second end of the second rope. It will burn for another 15 minutes (since it would have burned for 30 more minutes without lighting the second end), completing the 45 minutes.