I drift forever with the current down these long canals they've made.
Tame, yet wild, I run elusive, multitasking to your aid.
Before I came, the world was darker. Colder, sometimes, rougher, true.
But though I might make living easy, I'm good at killing people too.
In classic mythology, there is the story of the Sphinx, a monster with the body of a lion and the upper part of a woman.
The Sphinx lay crouched on the top of a rock along the highroad to the city of Thebes, and stopped all travellers passing by, proposing to them a riddle.
Those who failed to answer the riddle correctly were killed.
This is the riddle the Sphinx asked the travellers: "What animal walks on four legs in the morning, two legs during the day, and three legs in the evening?"
This is part of the story of Oedipus, who replied to the Sphinx, "Man, who in childhood creeps on hands and knees, in manhood walks erect, and in old age with the aid of a staff."
Morning, day and night are representative of the stages of life.
The Sphinx was so mortified at the solving of her riddle that she cast herself down from the rock and perished.
Your friend pulls out a perfectly circular table and a sack of quarters, and proposes a game.
"We'll take turns putting a quarter on the table," he says. "Each quarter must lay flat on the table, and cannot sit on top of any other quarters. The last person to successfully put a quarter on the table wins."
He gives you the choice to go first or second. What should you do, and what should your strategy be to win?
You should go first, and put a quarter at the exact center of the table.
Then, each time your opponent places a quarter down, you should place your next quarter in the symmetric position on the opposite side of the table.
This will ensure that you always have a place to set down our quarter, and eventually your oppponent will run out of space.
Last week, the local Primary school was visited by the Government School Inspector who was there to check that teachers were performing well in their respective classes. He was very impressed with one particular teacher. The Inspector noticed that each time the class teacher asked a question, every child in the class put up their hands enthusiastically to answer it. More surprisingly, whilst the teacher chose a different child to answer the questions each time, the answers were always correct.
Why would this be?
The children were instructed to ALL raise their hands whenever a question was asked. It did not matter whether they knew the answer or not. If they did not know the answer, however, they would raise their LEFT hand. If they knew the answer, they would raise their RIGHT hand. The class teacher would choose a different child each time, but always the ones who had their RIGHT hand raised.
Four people come to an old bridge in the middle of the night. The bridge is rickety and can only support 2 people at a time. The people have one flashlight, which needs to be held by any group crossing the bridge because of how dark it is.
Each person can cross the bridge at a different rate: one person takes 1 minute, one person takes 2 minutes, one takes 5 minutes, and the one person takes 10 minutes. If two people are crossing the bridge together, it will take both of them the time that it takes the slower person to cross.
Unfortunately, there are only 17 minutes worth of batteries left in the flashlight. How can the four travellers cross the bridge before time runs out?
The two keys here are:
You want the two slowest people to cross together to consolidate their slow crossing times.
You want to make sure the faster people are set up in order to bring the flashlight back quickly after the slow people cross.
So the order is:
1-minute and 2-minute cross (2 minute elapsed)
1-minute comes back (3 minutes elapsed)
5-minute and 10-minute cross (13 minutes elapsed)
2-minute comes back (15 minutes elapsed)
1-minute and 2-minute cross (17 minutes elapsed)