A man is found dead in the desert. He is wearing only his underwear. Half of a straw is found nearby.
How did this man die?
The man was flying in a hot-air balloon with another man over the desert. The balloon started to go down because of excess weight. Both men would die if they ended up stranded in the desert, so they stripped down to their underwear and threw their clothes off the balloon to try to reduce the weight. Unfortunately, that didn't work well enough. So they drew straws to decide who would jump. The dead man pulled the short straw and jumped out of the balloon.
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.
This teaser is based on a weird but true story from a few years ago. A complaint was received by the president of a major car company: "This is the fourth time I have written you, and I don't blame you for not answering me because I must sound crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of having ice cream for dessert after dinner each night. Every night after we've eaten, the family votes on which flavor of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. I recently purchased a new Pantsmobile from your company and since then my trips to the store have created a problem. You see, every time I buy vanilla ice cream my car won't start. If I get any other kind of ice cream the car starts just fine. I want you to know I'm serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds: 'What is there about a Pantsmobile that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?'"
The Pantsmobile company President was understandably skeptical about the letter, but he sent an engineer to check it out anyway. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the grocery store. The man bought vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car it wouldn't start for several minutes. The engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, the man got chocolate. The car started right away. The second night, he got strawberry and again the car started right up. The third night he bought vanilla and the car failed to start. There was a logical reason why the man's car wouldn't start when he bought vanilla ice cream. What was it?
The man lived in an extremely hot city, and this took place during the summer. Also, the layout of the grocery store was such that it took the man less time to buy vanilla ice cream.
Vanilla ice cream was the most popular flavor and was on display in a little case near the express check out, while the other flavors were in the back of the store and took more time to select and check out. This mattered because the man's car was experiencing vapor lock, which is excess heat boiling the fuel in the fuel line and the resulting air bubbles blocking the flow of fuel until the car has enough time to cool.. When the car was running there was enough pressure to move the bubbles along, but not when the car was trying to start.
A man comes to a small hotel where he wishes to stay for 7 nights. He reaches into his pockets and realizes that he has no money, and the only item he has to offer is a gold chain, which consists of 7 rings connected in a row (not in a loop).
The hotel proprietor tells the man that it will cost 1 ring per night, which will add up to all 7 rings for the 7 nights.
"Ok," the man says. "I'll give you all 7 rings right now to pre-pay for my stay."
"No," the proprietor says. "I don't like to be in other people's debt, so I cannot accept all the rings up front."
"Alright," the man responds. "I'll wait until after the seventh night, and then give you all of the rings."
"No," the proprietor says again. "I don't like to ever be owed anything. You'll need to make sure you've paid me the exact correct amount after each night."
The man thinks for a minute, and then says "I'll just cut each of my rings off of the chain, and then give you one each night."
"I do not want cut rings," the proprietor says. "However, I'm willing to let you cut one of the rings if you must."
The man thinks for a few minutes and then figures out a way to abide by the proprietor's rules and stay the 7 nights in the hotel. What is his plan?
The man cuts the ring that is third away from the end of the chain. This leaves him with 3 smaller chains of length 1, 2, and 4. Then, he gives rings to the proprietor as follows:
After night 1, give the proprietor the single ring
After night 2, take the single ring back and give the proprietor the 2-ring chain
After night 3, give the proprietor the single ring, totalling 3 rings with the proprietor
After night 4, take back the single ring and the 2-ring chain, and give the proprietor the 4-ring chain
After night 5, give the proprietor the single ring, totalling 5 rings with the proprietor
After night 6, take back the single ring and give the proprietor the 2-ring chain, totalling 6 rings with the proprietor
After night 7, give the proprietor the single ring, totalling 7 rings with the proprietor
100 men are in a room, each wearing either a white or black hat. Nobody knows the color of his own hat, although everyone can see everyone else's hat. The men are not allowed to communicate with each other at all (and thus nobody will ever be able to figure out the color of his own hat).
The men need to line up against the wall such that all the men with black hats are next to each other, and all the men with white hats are next to each other. How can they do this without communicating? You can assume they came up with a shared strategy before coming into the room.
The men go to stand agains the wall one at a time. If a man goes to stand against the wall and all of the men already against the wall have the same color hat, then he just goes and stands at either end of the line. However, if a man goes to stand against the wall and there are men with both black and white hats already against the wall, he goes and stands between the two men with different colored hats. This will maintain the state that the line contains men with one colored hats on one side, and men with the other colored hats on the other side, and when the last man goes and stands against the wall, we'll still have the desired outcome.
A duke was hunting in the forest with his men-at-arms and servants when he came across a tree.
Upon it, archery targets were painted and smack in the middle of each was an arrow.
"Who is this incredibly fine archer?" cried the duke. "I must find him!"
After continuing through the forest for a few miles he came across a small boy carrying a bow and arrow.
Eventually the boy admitted that it was he who shot the arrows plumb in the center of all the targets.
"You didn't just walk up to the targets and hammer the arrows into the middle, did you?" asked the duke worriedly.
"No my lord. I shot them from a hundred paces. I swear it by all that I hold holy."
"That is truly astonishing," said the duke. "I hereby admit you into my service."
The boy thanked him profusely.
"But I must ask one favor in return," the duke continued.
"You must tell me how you came to be such an outstanding shot."
How'd he get to be such a good shot?
The boy shot the arrow, then painted the circle around it.
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.
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.
Emily was sitting at her study table, home alone, on a cold and stormy night. Her parents had taken a flight earlier in the morning to Australia as her grandmother had passed away. She had wanted to follow her parents but she had an important English examination the next day which she could not miss. The storm was getting heavier by the minute and the wind was howling outside. All this noise made it very hard for her to concentrate. She was on the verge of dozing off when she was shaken alert by a sudden "THUD!" She dismissed it as a window which had been slammed shut by the wind.
She tried to concentrate on her books when she heard faint footsteps. Emily got out of her room and looked around when suddenly, without warning, she was grabbed by the neck. She tried to scream but it came out as a mere whimper as the intruder was pressing hard against her throat with his arm. She tried to free herself from his grip but to no avail.
"Give me all your money!" growled the man who had grabbed her from behind.
"Th-there is none h-here! Please ll-let me go!" cried Emily.
"Don't LIE TO ME!" screamed the increasingly agitated man. She felt the man strengthen his grip around her neck. She said nothing and a few seconds passed by in silence. Suddenly the phone rang which alerted both of them.
"People will get suspicious if I don't answer the phone," said Emily, with a controlled voice. The intruder let her go.
"Alright, but NO funny business, or ELSE!" said the nervous intruder. Emily walked toward the phone. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. She picked up the phone. "Hey Em! How's the revision going?" said the caller.
"Hey Anna. Thanks for the call. Hey you know those Science notes I lent you last week? Well I really need them back. It would be a great help to me. It's an emergency, so if you could give me them tomorrow it would be great. Please hurry in finding the notes. I need to get back to my books now. Bye," Emily said. She hung up the phone.
"It was wise of you not to say anything," said the intruder, although he was more than a bit confused by her conversation.
"Now TELL ME WHERE THE MONEY IS KEPT!" screamed the thief.
"It...it's...in my dad's room. The first room on the right. Third drawer," said Emily. "SHOW me!" said the man, and removed his grip around her neck. She took a big gulp of air and nearly fell. She swallowed hard and said a silent prayer. She walked slowly, in silence, toward her father's room. All of a sudden, they heard police sirens. The intruder froze in his footsteps. He ran to the nearest window and jumped out of it. Emily ran outside in time to see the intruder being escorted into the car. She saw Anna and she ran toward her and hugged her.
"Smart kids," said the policeman.
What had happened?
Emily had used the mute button during her conversation with Anna so that all Anna heard was: "call...help...emergency...please hurry".
Anna, sensing something was wrong, called the police and told them Emily's address. The police were able to come to Emily's house in time to catch the perpetrator.
A woman who lived in Germany during World War II wanted to cross the German/Swiss border in order to escape Nazi pursuers. The bridge which she is to cross is a half mile across, over a large canyon. Every three minutes a guard comes out of his bunker and checks if anyone is on the bridge. If a person is caught trying to escape German side to the Swiss side they are shot. If caught crossing the other direction without papers they are sent back. She knows that it takes at least five minutes to cross the bridge, in which time the guard will see her crossing and shoot her. How does she get across?
She waits until the guard goes inside his hunt, and begins to walk across the bridge. She gets a little more than half way, turns around, and begins to walk toward the german side once more. The guard comes out, sees that she has no papers, and sends her "back" to the swiss side.
A new student met the Zen Master after traveling hundreds of miles by yak cart. He was understandably pleased with himself for being selected to learn at the great master's feet .
The first time they formally met, the Zen Master asked, "May I ask you a simple question?" "It would be an honor!" replied the student.
"Which is greater, that which has no beginning or that which has no end?" queried the Zen Master. "Come back when you have the answer and can explain why."
After the student made many frustrated trips back with answers which the master quickly cast off with a disapproving negative nod, the Zen Master finally said, "Perhaps I should ask you another question?"
"Oh, please do!" pleaded the exasperated student.
The Zen Master then asked, "Since you do not know that, answer this much simpler riddle. When can a pebble hold back the sea?" Again the student was rebuffed time and again. Several more questions followed with the same result. Each time, the student could not find the correct answer. Finally, completely exasperated, the student began to weep, "Master, I am a complete idiot. I can not solve even the simplest riddle from you!"
Suddenly, the student stopped, sat down, and said, "I am ready for my second lesson."
What was the Zen Master's first lesson?
The student's first lesson was that in order to learn from the Zen Master, the student should be asking the questions and not the Zen Master.