Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Collapsing Bridge

The bridge will collapse in 17 minutes! Four people need to cross the bridge before it collapses. It is a dark night and they have only one flashlight among them.

Only two people can cross at a time.
  • Alice takes one minute to cross.
  • Bob takes two minutes.
  • Carol takes five minutes
  • Dave takes 10 minutes to cross.
How can they all get across before the bridge collapses? Click below to see the answer.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Island of Knights and Knaves

Raymond Smullyan, one of the grand masters of logic puzzles, sadly passed away at the age of 97 earlier this week. In his honor, I present a classic puzzle adapted from his book What Is the Name of This Book?

There is a wide variety of puzzles about an island in which certain inhabitants called "knights" always tell the truth and others called "knaves" always lie. It is assumed that every inhabitant of the island is either a knight or a knave.

In this problem, there are only two people, A and B, each of whom is either a knight or a knave. A makes the following statement: "At least one of us is a knave." What are A and B?

Click below for the solution.

Raymond Smullyan presented a couple more of his puzzles in a 1982 interview on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. When you see the white hair and long beard, it seems like even 35 years ago that Smullyan was an old man, but the twinkle in his eye and the playfulness in his voice reveal that he was always a child at heart. Watch the full interview below.

If these puzzles seem too easy, they're just a small sample of Dr. Smullyan's brilliant work. If you really want a challenge, I encourage you to check out some of his books, or The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever, also credited to Smullyan.

Finally, I leave you with a quote.

Why should I be worried about dying?
It's not going to happen in my lifetime!

-Raymond Smullyan (1919 - 2017)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Animal Kingdom

What do the following animals all have in common?
  • firefly
  • jackrabbit
  • koala bear
  • prairie dog
  • silkworm
  • guinea pig

Click below to see the answer.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Name this Book

When this book first came out, it was only read by a handful of rather wealthy people. Now almost everyone has a copy, and many people read it regularly. You cannot buy it from a bookstore or borrow it from the library. Can you name this book? Click below for the answer.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Brodie Helmet

At the outbreak of World War I, none of the combatant nations provided steel helmets to their troops. Soldiers of most nations went into battle wearing cloth or leather hats that offered little protection from modern weapons. As a result, many soldiers suffered head injuries from exploding shrapnel.

In April of 1916, British soldiers began using a metal helmet in battle called the Brodie helmet, but authorities discovered that the proportion of head injuries then increased. Why should the incidence of head injuries increase when soldiers wore metal helmets rather than cloth caps? Click below to see the answer.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Panama Canal

A ship sailed through the Panama Canal going from west to east. When it exited the canal, it entered the Pacific Ocean. (The ship did not double back.) How can this be so? Click below to see the answer.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rope Around the Earth

Suppose you tie a rope tightly around the Earth at the equator. (Assume the Earth is perfectly spherical, and that the surface is smooth so that the rope lies tight against the surface at all points.) Now suppose that you add an additional 6 feet to the length of the rope. How high off the surface would the rope lie? You could look up the Earth's circumference and do the math to come up with an exact answer, but can you quickly come up with an intuitive guess? (High enough to slide a piece of paper under? To wave your hand under? To walk under?) Click below to see a hint or the answer.