Tag Archives: Mathologer

Clock Connections Puzzle

This is an imaginative puzzle from the Maths Masters team, Burkard Polster (aka Mathologer) and Marty Ross as part of their “Summer Quizzes” offerings for 2012.

“You draw a line connecting the 5 and 9 on a clock face, and another line connecting the 3 and 8. What is the angle between the two lines?”

See the Clock Connections Puzzle

Ladder Locus Puzzle

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

“A ladder is leaning against a wall. The base of the ladder starts sliding away from the wall, with the top of the ladder sliding down the wall. As the ladder slides, you watch the red point in the middle of the ladder. What figure does the red point trace? What about other points on the ladder?”

See the Ladder Locus Puzzle

Existence Proofs

Here is a seemingly simple problem from Futility Closet.

“A quickie from Peter Winkler’s Mathematical Puzzles, 2021: Can West Virginia be inscribed in a square? That is, is it possible to draw some square each of whose four sides is tangent to this shape?”

Technically we might rephrase this as, can we inscribe a flat map of West Virginia in a square, since the boundary of most states is probably not differentiable everywhere, that is, has a tangent everywhere.

But the real significance of the problem is that it is an example of an “existence proof”, which in mathematics refers to a proof that asserts the existence of a solution to a problem, but does not (or cannot) produce the solution itself.  These proofs are second in delight only to the “impossible proofs” which prove that something is impossible, such as trisecting an angle solely with ruler and compass.

Here is another classic example (whose origin I don’t recall).  Consider the temperatures of the earth around the equator.  At any given instant of time there must be at least two antipodal points that have the same temperature.  (Antipodal points are the opposite ends of a diameter through the center of the earth.)

See Existence Proofs (revised)

(Update 10/2/2021) I fixed a minor typo: “tail” should have been “head”