A guard is stationed at the entrance to a bridge. He is tasked to shoot anyone who tries to cross to the other side of the bridge, and to turn away anyone who comes in from the opposite side of the bridge. You are on his side of the bridge and want to escape to the other side.
Because the bridge is old and rickety, anyone who tries to cross it does so at a constant speed, and it always takes exactly 10 minutes to cross.
The guard comes out of his post every 6 minutes and looks down the bridge for any people trying to leave, and at all other times he sits in his post and snoozes. You know you can sneak past him when he's sleeping, but the problem is that you won't be able to make it all the way to the other side of the bridge before he sees you (since he comes out every 6 minutes, but it takes 10 minutes to cross).
One day a brilliant idea comes to you, and soon you've successfully crossed to the other side of the bridge without being shot. How did you do it?
Right after the guard goes back to his post after checking the bridge, you sneak by and make your way down the bridge. After a little bit less than 6 minutes, you turn around and start walking back toward the guard. He will come out and see you, and assume that you are a visitor coming from the other side of the bridge, since you're only about 4 minutes from the end of the other side of the bridge. He will go back into his post since he doesn't plan to turn you away until you reach him, and then you turn back around and make your way the rest of the way to the other side of the bridge.
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.
A swan sits at the center of a perfectly circular lake. At an edge of the lake stands a ravenous monster waiting to devour the swan. The monster can not enter the water, but it will run around the circumference of the lake to try to catch the swan as soon as it reaches the shore. The monster moves at 4 times the speed of the swan, and it will always move in the direction along the shore that brings it closer to the swan the quickest. Both the swan and the the monster can change directions in an instant.
The swan knows that if it can reach the lake's shore without the monster right on top of it, it can instantly escape into the surrounding forest.
How can the swan succesfully escape?
Assume the radius of the lake is R feet. So the circumference of the lake is (2*pi*R). If the swan swims R/4 feet, (or, put another way, 0.25R feet) straight away from the center of the lake, and then begins swimming in a circle around the center, then it will be able to swim around this circle in the exact same amount of time as the monster will be able to run around the lake's shore (since this inner circle's circumference is 2*pi*(R/4), which is exactly 4 times shorter than the shore's circumference).
From this point, the swan can move a millimeter inward toward the lake's center, and begin swimming around the center in a circle from this distance. It is now going around a very slightly smaller circle than it was a moment ago, and thus will be able to swim around this circle FASTER than the monster can run around the shore.
The swan can keep swimming around this way, pulling further away each second, until finally it is on the opposite side of its inner circle from where the monster is on the shore. At this point, the swan aims directly toward the closest shore and begins swimming that way. At this point, the swan has to swim [0.75R feet + 1 millimeter] to get to shore. Meanwhile, the monster will have to run R*pi feet (half the circumference of the lake) to get to where the swan is headed.
The monster runs four times as fast as the swan, but you can see that it has more than four times as far to run:
[0.75R feet + 1 millimeter] * 4 < R*pi
[This math could actually be incorrect if R were very very small, but in that case we could just say the swan swam inward even less than a millimeter, and make the math work out correctly.]
Because the swan has less than a fourth of the distance to travel as the monster, it will reach the shore before the monster reaches where it is and successfully escape.
A black dog stands in the middle of an intersection in a town painted black. None of the street lights are working due to a power failure caused by a storm. A car with two broken headlights drives towards the dog but turns in time to avoid hitting him. How could the driver have seen the dog in time?
In the land of Brainopia, there are three races of people: Mikkos, who tell the truth all the time, Kikkos, who always tell lies, and Zikkos, who tell alternate false and true statements, in which the order is not known (i.e. true, false, true or false, true, false). When interviewing three Brainopians, a foreigner received the following statements:
I am a Mikko.
I am a Kikko.
a. They are both lying.
b. I am a Zikko.
Can you help the very confused foreigner determine who is who, assuming each person represents a different race?
Person 1 is a Miko.
Person 2 is a Ziko.
Person 3 is a Kikko.