Here is another problem from the Sherlock Holmes puzzle book by Dr. Watson (aka Tim Dedopulos).
“Wiggins grinned at me. ‘You’ve not played Rock Paper Scissors before, Doctor?’
‘Doesn’t ring a bell,’ I told him.
‘Two of you randomly pick one of the three, and shout your choice simultaneously. There are hand gestures, too. If you both get the same, it’s a draw. Otherwise, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock, and rock beats scissors.’
‘So it’s a way of settling an argument,’ I suggested.
‘You were brought up wrong, Doctor,’ Wiggins said gravely. ‘Look, try it this way. I played a series of ten games with Alice earlier. I picked scissors six times, rock three times, and paper once. She picked scissors four times, rock twice, and paper four times. None of our games were drawn.’ He glanced at Holmes, who nodded. ‘So then, Doctor. What was the overall score for the series?’ ”
For a change of pace, here is an early puzzle from Alex Bellos in The Guardian.
“Happy New Year guzzlers! Today’s first problem concerns squirrels. Have a nibble—it’s not too hard a nut to crack.
The Squirrel King has buried the Golden Acorn beneath one of the squares in this 6x6 grid. Three squirrels—Black, Grey and Red—are each standing on a square in the grid, as illustrated.
(Note: for the purposes of today, squirrels can speak, hear, read, count and are perfect logicians. They can also move in any direction horizontally and vertically, not just the direction these cartoons are facing. They all can see where each other is standing, and the cells in the grid are to be considered squares.)
The Squirrel King hands each squirrel a card, on which a number is written. The squirrels can read only the number on their own card. The King tells them: ‘Each card has a different number on it, and your card tells you the number of steps you are from the square with the Golden Acorn. Moving one square horizontally or vertically along the grid counts as a single step.’ (So if the acorn was under Black, Black’s card would say 0, Grey’s would say 4, and Red’s 5. Also, the number of steps given means the shortest possible number of steps from each squirrel to the acorn.)
The King asks them: ‘Do you know the square where the Golden Acorn is buried?’ They all reply ‘no!’ at once.
For a number of years I have collected excerpts that portray mathematical ideas in a literary or philosophical setting. I had occasion to read a few of these on the last day of some math classes I was teaching, since there was no point in introducing a new subject before the final exam.
I thought it might be interesting to present some of these excerpts now. They roughly fall into three categories: logic, infinities (Zeno’s Paradoxes, infinite regress), and permutations.