What word in the English language does the following: the first two letters signify a male, the first three letters signify a female, the first four letters signify a great man, the first six letters signify a drug, while the entire world signifies a great woman. What is the word?
You are standing in a pitch-dark room. A friend walks up and hands you a normal deck of 52 cards. He tells you that 13 of the 52 cards are face-up, the rest are face-down. These face-up cards are distributed randomly throughout the deck.
Your task is to split up the deck into two piles, using all the cards, such that each pile has the same number of face-up cards. The room is pitch-dark, so you can't see the deck as you do this.
How can you accomplish this seemingly impossible task?
Take the first 13 cards off the top of the deck and flip them over. This is the first pile. The second pile is just the remaining 39 cards as they started.
This works because if there are N face-up cards in within the first 13 cards, then there will be (13 - N) face up cards in the remaining 39 cards. When you flip those first 13 cards, N of which are face-up, there will now be N cards face-down, and therefore (13 - N) cards face-up, which, as stated, is the same number of face-up cards in the second pile.
You have just purchased a small company called Company X. Company X has N employees, and everyone is either an engineer or a manager. You know for sure that there are more engineers than managers at the company.
Everyone at Company X knows everyone else's position, and you are able to ask any employee about the position of any other employee. For example, you could approach employee A and ask "Is employee B an engineer or a manager?" You can only direct your question to one employee at a time, and can only ask about one other employee at a time. You're allowed to ask the same employee multiple questions if you want.
Your goal is to find at least one engineer to solve a huge problem that has just hit the company's factory. The problem is so urgent that you only have time to ask N-1 total questions.
The major problem with questioning the employees, however, is that while the engineers will always tell you the truth about other employees' roles, the managers may lie to you if they like. You can assume that the managers will do their best to confuse you.
How can you find at least one engineer by asking at most N-1 questions?
You can find at least one engineer using the following process:
Put all of the employees in a conference room. If there happen to be an even number of employees, pick one at random and send him home for the day so that we start with an odd number of employees. Note that there will still be more engineers than managers after we send this employee home.
Then call them out one at a time in any order. You will be forming them into a line as follows:
If there is nobody currently in the line, put the employee you just called out in the line.
Otherwise, if there is anybody in the line, then we do the following. Let's call the employee currently at the front of the line Employee_Front, and call the employee who we just called out of the conference room Employee_Next.
So ask Employee_Front if Employee_Next is a manager or an engineer.
If Employee_Front says "manager", then send both Employee_Front and Employee_Next home for the day.
However, if Employee_Front says "engineer", then put Employee_Next at the front of the line.
Keep doing this until you've called everyone out of the conference room. Notice that at this point, you'll have asked N-1 or less questions (you asked at most one question each time you called an employee out except for the first employee, when you didn't ask a question, so that's at most N-1 questions).
When you're done calling everyone out of the conference room, the person at the front of the line is an engineer. So you've found your engineer!
But the real question: how does this work?
We can prove this works by showing a few things.
First, let's show that if there are any engineers in the line, then they must be in front of any managers.
We'll show this with a proof by contradiction. Assume that there is a manager in front of an engineer somewhere in the line. Then it must have been the case that at some point, that engineer was Employee_Front and that manager was Employee_Next. But then Employee_Front would have said "manager" (since he is an engineer and always tells the truth), and we would have sent them both home. This contradicts their being in the line at all, and thus we know that there can never be a manager in front of an engineer in the line.
So now we know that after the process is done, if there are any engineers in the line, then they will be at the front of the line. That means that all we have to prove now is that there will be at least one engineer in the line at the end of the process, and we'll know that there will be an engineer at the front.
So let's show that there will be at least one engineer in the line. To see why, consider what happens when we ask Employee_Front about Employee_Next, and Employee_Front says "manager". We know for sure that in this case, Employee_Front and Employee_Next are not both engineers, because if this were the case, then Employee_Front would have definitely says "engineer". Put another way, at least one of Employee_Front and Employee_Next is a manager. So by sending them both home, we know we are sending home at least one manager, and thus, we are keeping the balance in the remaining employees that there are more engineers than managers.
Thus, once the process is over, there will be more engineers than managers in the line (this is also sufficient to show that there will be at least one person in the line once the process is over). And so, there must be at least one engineer in the line.
Put altogether, we proved that at the end of the process, there will be at least one engineer in the line and that any engineers in the line must be in front of any managers, and so we know that the person at the front of the line will be an engineer.
You've been placed on a course of expensive medication in which you are to take one tablet of Plusin and one tablet of Minusin daily. You must be careful that you take just one of each because taking more of either can have serious side effects. Taking Plusin without taking Minusin, or vice versa, can also be very serious, because they must be taken together in order to be effective. In summary, you must take exactly one of the Plusin pills and one of the Minusin pills at one time.
Therefore, you open up the Plusin bottle, and you tap one Plusin pill into your hand. You put that bottle aside and you open the Minusin bottle. You do the same, but by mistake, two Minusins fall into your hand with the Plusin pill.
Now, here's the problem. You weren't watching your hand as the pills fell into it, so you can't tell the Plusin pill apart from the two Minusin pills. The pills look identical. They are both the same size, same weight (10 micrograms), same color (Blue), same shape (perfect square), same everything, and they are not marked differently in any way.
What are you going to do?
You cannot tell which pill is which, and they cost $500 a piece, so you cannot afford to throw them away and start over again. How do you get your daily dose of exactly one Plusin and exactly one Minusin without wasting any of the pills?
Carefully cut each of the three pills in half, and carefully separate them into two piles, with half of each pill in each pile. You do not know which pill is which, but you are 100% sure that each of the two piles now contains two halves of Minusin and half of Plusin. Now go back into the Plusin bottle, take out a pill, cut it in half, and add one half to each stack. Now you have two stacks, each one containing two halves of Plusin and two halves of Minusin. Take one stack of pills today, and save the second stack for tomorrow.
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.
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.
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!