There are 1 million closed school lockers in a row, labeled 1 through 1,000,000.
You first go through and flip every locker open.
Then you go through and flip every other locker (locker 2, 4, 6, etc...). When you're done, all the even-numbered lockers are closed.
You then go through and flip every third locker (3, 6, 9, etc...). "Flipping" mean you open it if it's closed, and close it if it's open. For example, as you go through this time, you close locker 3 (because it was still open after the previous run through), but you open locker 6, since you had closed it in the previous run through.
Then you go through and flip every fourth locker (4, 8, 12, etc...), then every fifth locker (5, 10, 15, etc...), then every sixth locker (6, 12, 18, etc...) and so on. At the end, you're going through and flipping every 999,998th locker (which is just locker 999,998), then every 999,999th locker (which is just locker 999,999), and finally, every 1,000,000th locker (which is just locker 1,000,000).
At the end of this, is locker 1,000,000 open or closed?
Locker 1,000,000 will be open.
If you think about it, the number of times that each locker is flipped is equal to the number of factors it has. For example, locker 12 has factors 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12, and will thus be flipped 6 times (it will end be flipped when you flip every one, every 2nd, every 3rd, every 4th, every 6th, and every 12th locker). It will end up closed, since flipping an even number of times will return it to its starting position. You can see that if a locker number has an even number of factors, it will end up closed. If it has an odd number of factors, it will end up open.
As it turns out, the only types of numbers that have an odd number of factors are squares. This is because factors come in pairs, and for squares, one of those pairs is the square root, which is duplicated and thus doesn't count twice as a factor. For example, 12's factors are 1 x 12, 2 x 6, and 3 x 4 (6 total factors). On the other hand, 16's factors are 1 x 16, 2 x 8, and 4 x 4 (5 total factors).
So lockers 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, etc... will all be open. Since 1,000,000 is a square number (1000 x 1000), it will be open as well.
Consider the following explanation for why 1=2:
1. Start out Let y = x
2. Multiply through by x xy = x2
3. Subtract y2 from each side xy - y2 = x2 - y2
4. Factor each side y(x-y) = (x+y)(x-y)
5. Divide both sides by (x-y) y = x+y
6. Divide both sides by y y/y = x/y + y/y
7. And so... 1 = x/y + 1
8. Since x=y, x/y = 1 1 = 1 + 1
8. And so... 1 = 2
How is this possible?
Step 5 is invalid, because we are dividing by (x-y), and since x=y, we are thus dividing by 0. This is an invalid mathematical operation (division by 0), and so by not followinng basic mathematical rules, we are able to get strange results like these.
You can easily "tile" an 8x8 chessboard with 32 2x1 tiles, meaning that you can place these 32 tiles on the board and cover every square.
But if you take away two opposite corners from the chessboard, it becomes impossible to tile this new 62-square board.
Can you explain why tiling this board isn't possible?
Color in the chessboard, alternating with red and blue tiles. Then color all of your tiles half red and half blue. Whenever you place a tile down, you can always make it so that the red part of the tile is on a red square and the blue part of the tile is on the blue square.
Since you'll need to place 31 tiles on the board (to cover the 62 squares), you would have to be able to cover 31 red squares and 31 blue squares. But when you took away the two corners, you can see that you are taking away two red spaces, leaving 30 red squares and 32 blue squares. There is no way to cover 30 red squares and 32 blue squares with the 31 tiles, since these tiles can only cover 31 red squares and 31 blue squares, and thus, tiling this board is not possible.
There are 3 switches outside of a room, all in the 'off' setting. One of them controls a lightbulb inside the room, the other two do nothing.
You cannot see into the room, and once you open the door to the room, you cannot flip any of the switches any more.
Before going into the room, how would you flip the switches in order to be able to tell which switch controls the light bulb?
Flip the first switch and keep it flipped for five minutes. Then unflip it, and flip the second switch. Go into the room. If the lightbulb is off but warm, the first switch controls it. If the light is on, the second switch controls it. If the light is off and cool, the third switch controls it.