There are 100 ants on a board that is 1 meter long, each facing either left or right and walking at a pace of 1 meter per minute.
The board is so narrow that the ants cannot pass each other; when two ants walk into each other, they each instantly turn around and continue walking in the opposite direction. When an ant reaches the end of the board, it falls off the edge.
From the moment the ants start walking, what is the longest amount of time that could pass before all the ants have fallen off the plank? You can assume that each ant has infinitely small length.
The longest amount of time that could pass would be 1 minute.
If you were looking at the board from the side and could only see the silhouettes of the board and the ants, then when two ants walked into each other and turned around, it would look to you as if the ants had walked right by each other.
In fact, the effect of two ants walking into each other and then turning around is essentially the same as two ants walking past one another: we just have two ants at that point walking in opposite directions.
So we can treat the board as if the ants are walking past each other. In this case, the longest any ant can be on the board is 1 minute (since the board is 1 meter long and the ants walk at 1 meter per minute). Thus, after 1 minute, all the ants will be off the board.
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.
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.