A bad king has a cellar of 1000 bottles of delightful and very expensive wine. A neighboring queen plots to kill the bad king and sends a servant to poison the wine. Fortunately (or say unfortunately) the bad king’s guards catch the servant after he has only poisoned one bottle. Alas, the guards don’t know which bottle but know that the poison is so strong that even if diluted 100,000 times it would still kill the king. Furthermore, it takes one month to have an effect. The bad king decides he will get some of the prisoners in his vast dungeons to drink the wine. Being a clever bad king he knows he needs to murder no more than 10 prisoners – believing he can fob off such a low death rate – and will still be able to drink the rest of the wine (999 bottles) at his anniversary party in 5 weeks time. Explain what is in mind of the king, how will he be able to do so?
Think in terms of binary numbers. (now don’t read the solution, give a try).
Number the bottles 1 to 1000 and write the number in binary format.
bottle 1 = 0000000001 (10 digit binary)
bottle 2 = 0000000010
bottle 500 = 0111110100
bottle 1000 = 1111101000
Now take 10 prisoners and number them 1 to 10, now let prisoner 1 take a sip from every bottle that has a 1 in its least significant bit. Let prisoner 10 take a sip from every bottle with a 1 in its most significant bit. etc.
prisoner = 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
bottle 924 = 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0
For instance, bottle no. 924 would be sipped by 10,9,8,5,4 and 3. That way if bottle no. 924 was the poisoned one, only those prisoners would die.
After four weeks, line the prisoners up in their bit order and read each living prisoner as a 0 bit and each dead prisoner as a 1 bit. The number that you get is the bottle of wine that was poisoned.
1000 is less than 1024 (2^10). If there were 1024 or more bottles of wine it would take more than 10 prisoners.
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.