# Rolling Wheels Puzzle

Here is another Quantum math magazine Brainteaser.

“Two wheels roll toward each other with identical angular velocity. At the moment of collision they contact each other at the same points that touched the ground before they began rolling. Could the radii of the wheels differ?”

See the Rolling Wheels Puzzle for solution.

# Blockbusters Problem

For his Monday Puzzle in the Guardian Alex Bellos provided a seemingly impossible puzzle from the 1983 British teenager quiz show Blockbusters.

“In the much-missed student quiz show Blockbusters, teenagers would ask host Bob Holness for a letter from a hexagonal grid. How we laughed when a contestant asked for a P!  Holness would reply with a question in the following style: What P is an area of cutting edge mathematical research and also a process in the making of an espresso? The answer is the subject of today’s puzzle: percolation.

Today’s perplexing percolation poser concerns the following Blockbusters-style hexagonal grid:

The grid above shows a 10×10 hexagonal tiling of a rhombus (i.e. a diamond shape), plus an outer row that demarcates the boundary of the rhombus. The boundary row on the top right and the bottom left are coloured blue, while the boundary row on the top left and the bottom right are white.

If we colour each hexagon in the rhombus either blue or white, one of two things can happen. Either there is a path of blue hexagons that connects the blue boundaries, such as here:

Or there is no path of blue hexagons that connects the blue boundaries, such as here:

There are 100 hexagons in the rhombus. Since each of these hexagons can be either white or blue, the total number of possible configurations of white and blue hexagons in the rhombus is 2 x 2 x … x 2 one hundred times, or 2100, which is about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

In how many of these configurations is there a path of blue hexagons that connects the blue boundaries?

The answer requires a simple insight. Indeed, it is the insight on which the quiz show Blockbusters relied.

For clarification: a path of hexagons means a sequence of adjacent hexagons that are the same colour.”

See the Blockbusters Problem for solution.

# Incredible Trick Puzzle

Here is another typical sum puzzle from Presh Talwalkar.

“Solve the following sums:

_____1/(1×3) + 1/(3×5) + 1/(5×7) + 1/(7×9) + 1/(9×11) =

_____1/(4×7) + 1/(7×10) + 1/(10×13) + 1/(13×16) =

_____1/(2×7) + 1/(7×12) + 1/(12×17) + … =”

The only reason I am including this puzzle is that Talwalkar gets very excited about deriving a formula that can solve sums of this type.  This gives me an opportunity to discuss the “formula vs. procedure” way of doing math.

See the Incredible Trick Puzzle for solutions.

# “Fermat’s Last Theorem” Puzzle

Here is a mind-numbing logic puzzle from Futility Closet.

“A puzzle by H.A. Thurston, from the April 1947 issue of Eureka, the journal of recreational mathematics published at Cambridge University:

Five people make the following statements:—

Which of these statements are true and which false?  It will be found on trial that there is only one possibility.  Thus, prove or disprove Fermat’s last theorem.”

Normally I would forgo something this complicated, but I thought I would give it a try.  I was surprised that I was able to solve it, though it took some tedious work.  (Hint: truth tables.  See the “Pointing Fingers” post regarding truth tables.)

One important note.  The author is a bit cavalier about the use of “Either …, or …”.  In common parlance this means “either P is true or Q is true, but not both” (exclusive “or”: XOR), whereas in logic “or” means “either P is true or Q is true, or possibly both” (inclusive “or”: OR).  I assumed all “Either …, or …” and “or” expressions were the logical inclusive “or”, which turned out to be the case.

See the Fermat’s Last Theorem Puzzle

# Three Triangles Puzzle

This is a nice little puzzle from the late Nick Berry’s Datagenetics Blog.

“A quick little puzzle this week. (I tried to track down the original source, but reached a dead-end with a web search as the site that hosted it, a blogspot page under the name fivetriangles appears password protected, and no longer maintained). …

There are three identical triangles with aligned bases (in the original problem, it is stated they are equilateral, but I don’t think that really matters; Any congruent triangles will do, and I’m going to use isosceles triangles in my solving). If we say that one triangle has the area A, what is the area of the two shaded regions?”

See the Three Triangles Puzzle for solutions.

# Log Lunacy

This is an initially mind-boggling problem from the 1995 American Invitational Mathematics Exam (AIME).

“Find the last three digits of the product of the positive roots of

See Log Lunacy for solution.

# Close Race Puzzle

This puzzle from the Scottish Mathematical Council (SMC) Senior Mathematics Challenge seems at first to have insufficient information to solve.

“Ant and Dec had a race up a hill and back down by the same route. It was 3 miles from the start to the top of the hill. Ant got there first but was so exhausted that he had to rest for 15 minutes. While he was resting, Dec arrived and went straight back down again. Ant eventually passed Dec on the way down just half a mile before the finish.

Both ran at a steady speed uphill and downhill and, for both of them, their downhill speed was one and a half times faster than their uphill speed. Ant had bet Dec that he would beat him by at least a minute.

Did Ant win his bet?”

See the Close Race Puzzle for solutions.

(Update 1/2/2023Alternative Solution from Oscar Rojas Continue reading

# Four Year Anniversary

Yet another year has passed, surprisingly, with perhaps the prospect of coming out from under the shadow of the pandemic.  Again, I thought I would present the statistical pattern of interaction with the website in the absence of any explicit feedback.

Perhaps due to fatigue from the height of the pandemic students seemed to have embraced returning to inclass education and abandoned online educational activities, at least as far as my website is concerned.  Visits dropped precipitously this school year.  Combined with a diminishing supply of fresh material this may finally spell the fading of the site.  Still, I may persist if for no other reason than my own entertainment.

Anyway, here is the summary.

# Spiral Areas Puzzle

This is a provocative puzzle from the Maths Masters team, Burkard Polster (aka Mathologer) and Marty Ross as part of their “Summer Quizzes” offerings for 2013.

“In the picture the top curve is a semicircle and the bottom curve is a quarter circle. Which has greater area, the red square or the blue rectangle?”

See the Spiral Areas Puzzle for solutions.

# Fireworks Rocket

This is another physics-based problem from Colin Hughes’s Maths Challenge website (mathschallenge.net) that may take a bit more thought.

“A firework rocket is fired vertically upwards with a constant acceleration of 4 m/s2 until the chemical fuel expires. Its ascent is then slowed by gravity until it reaches a maximum height of 138 metres.

Assuming no air resistance and taking g = 9.8 m/s2, how long does it take to reach its maximum height?”

I can never remember the formulas relating acceleration, velocity, and distance, so I always derive them via integration.

See the Fireworks Rocket for solutions.