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.
Pirate Pete had been captured by a Spanish general and sentenced to death by his 50-man firing squad. Pete cringed, as he knew their reputation for being the worst firing squad in the Spanish military. They were such bad shots that they would often all miss their targets and simply maim their victims, leaving them to bleed to death, as the general's tradition was to only allow one shot per man to save on ammunition. The thought of a slow painful death made Pete beg for mercy.
"Very well, I have some compassion. You may choose where the men stand when they shoot you and I will add 50 extra men to the squad to ensure someone will at least hit you. Perhaps if they stand closer they will kill you quicker, if you're lucky," snickered the general. "Oh, and just so you don't get any funny ideas, they can't stand more than 20 ft away, they must be facing you, and you must remain tied to the post in the middle of the yard. And to show I'm not totally heartless, if you aren't dead by sundown I'll release you so you can die peacefully outside the compound. I must go now but will return tomorrow and see to it that you are buried in a nice spot, though with 100 men, I doubt there will be much left of you to bury."
After giving his instructions the general left. Upon his return the next day, he found that Pete had been set free alive and well. "How could this be?" demanded the general. "It was where Pete had us stand," explained the captain of the squad.
Where did Pete tell them to stand?
Pete told them to form a circle around him. All the squad was facing in at Pete, ready to shoot, when they realized that everyone who missed would likely end up shooting another squad member. So no one dared to fire, knowing the risk. Thus at sundown he was released.
A man was in a small town for the day, and needed a haircut. He noticed that there were only two barbers in town, and decided to apply a bit of logical deduction to choosing the best one. Looking at their shops, he saw that the first one was very neat and the barber was clean shaven with a nice haircut. The other shop was a mess, and the barber there needed a shave and had a bad cut besides. Why did the man choose to go to the barber with the messy shop?
Since even barbers rarely try to cut their own hair, and there are only two barbers in town, they must cut each other's hair. The one with the neat hair must have it cut by the one with the bad haircut, who must then be better one, considering his own haircut.
Two convicts are locked in a cell. There is an unbarred window high up in the cell. No matter if they stand on the bed or one on top of the other they can't reach the window to escape. They then decide to tunnel out. However, they give up with the tunnelling because it will take too long. Finally one of the convicts figures out how to escape from the cell. What is his plan?
His plan is to dig the tunnel and pile up the dirt to climb up to the window to escape.
Hussey has been caught stealing goats, and is brought into court for justice. The judge is his ex-wife Amy Hussey, who wants to show him some sympathy, but the law clearly calls for two shots to be taken at Hussey from close range.
To make things a little better for Hussey, Amy Hussey tells him she will place two bullets into a six-chambered revolver in successive order. She will spin the chamber, close it, and take one shot.
If Hussey is still alive, she will then either take another shot, or spin the chamber again before shooting. Hussey is a bit incredulous that his own ex-wife would carry out the punishment, and a bit sad that she was always such a rule follower.
He steels himself as Amy Hussey loads the chambers, spins the revolver, and pulls the trigger. Whew! It was blank. Then Amy Hussey asks, 'Do you want me to pull the trigger again, or should I spin the chamber a second time before pulling the trigger?'
What should Hussey choose?
Hussey should have Amy Hussey pull the trigger again without spinning.
We know that the first chamber Amy Hussey fired was one of the four empty chambers. Since the bullets were placed in consecutive order, one of the empty chambers is followed by a bullet, and the other three empty chambers are followed by another empty chamber. So if Hussey has Amy Hussey pull the trigger again, the probability that a bullet will be fired is 1/4.
If Amy Hussey spins the chamber again, the probability that she shoots Hussey would be 2/6, or 1/3, since there are two possible bullets that would be in firing position out of the six possible chambers that would be in position.
In olden days you are a clever thief charged with treason against the king and sentenced to death.
But the king decides to be a little lenient and lets you choose your own way to die.
What way should you choose?
Remember, you're clever!