A swan sits at the center of a perfectly circular lake. At an edge of the lake stands a ravenous monster waiting to devour the swan. The monster can not enter the water, but it will run around the circumference of the lake to try to catch the swan as soon as it reaches the shore. The monster moves at 4 times the speed of the swan, and it will always move in the direction along the shore that brings it closer to the swan the quickest. Both the swan and the the monster can change directions in an instant.
The swan knows that if it can reach the lake's shore without the monster right on top of it, it can instantly escape into the surrounding forest.
How can the swan succesfully escape?
Assume the radius of the lake is R feet. So the circumference of the lake is (2*pi*R). If the swan swims R/4 feet, (or, put another way, 0.25R feet) straight away from the center of the lake, and then begins swimming in a circle around the center, then it will be able to swim around this circle in the exact same amount of time as the monster will be able to run around the lake's shore (since this inner circle's circumference is 2*pi*(R/4), which is exactly 4 times shorter than the shore's circumference).
From this point, the swan can move a millimeter inward toward the lake's center, and begin swimming around the center in a circle from this distance. It is now going around a very slightly smaller circle than it was a moment ago, and thus will be able to swim around this circle FASTER than the monster can run around the shore.
The swan can keep swimming around this way, pulling further away each second, until finally it is on the opposite side of its inner circle from where the monster is on the shore. At this point, the swan aims directly toward the closest shore and begins swimming that way. At this point, the swan has to swim [0.75R feet + 1 millimeter] to get to shore. Meanwhile, the monster will have to run R*pi feet (half the circumference of the lake) to get to where the swan is headed.
The monster runs four times as fast as the swan, but you can see that it has more than four times as far to run:
[0.75R feet + 1 millimeter] * 4 < R*pi
[This math could actually be incorrect if R were very very small, but in that case we could just say the swan swam inward even less than a millimeter, and make the math work out correctly.]
Because the swan has less than a fourth of the distance to travel as the monster, it will reach the shore before the monster reaches where it is and successfully escape.
On the first day they cover one quarter of the total distance.
The next day they cover one quarter of what is left.
The following day they cover two fifths of the remainder and on the fourth day half of the remaining distance.
The group now have 14 miles left, how many miles have they walked?
A black dog stands in the middle of an intersection in a town painted black. None of the street lights are working due to a power failure caused by a storm. A car with two broken headlights drives towards the dog but turns in time to avoid hitting him. How could the driver have seen the dog in time?
Jack and Joe were on vacation and driving along a deserted country road from the town of Kaysville to the town of Lynnsville. They came to a multiple fork in the road. The sign post had been knocked down and they were faced with choosing one of five different directions. Since they had left their map at the last gas station and there was no one around to ask, how could Jack and Joe find their way to Lynnsville?
They need to stand the signpost up so that the arm reading Kaysville points in the direction of Kaysville, the town they had just come from. With one arm pointing the correct way, the other arms will also point in the right directions.