Ants in a Circle

Suppose n ants are placed on a circle with a diameter of one meter. Each ant location is chosen independently, uniformly at random. An ant chooses between clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, uniformly at random, and starts scampering along the circle. All ants move at the same speed: one meter per second. When two ants bump into each other, they reverse their direction of travel. One of the ants is named Alice. What is the probability that Alice returns to the same point as she started, one minute after the ants start their scampering?

Fifteen Sum

Alice and Bob take turns to pick numbers from 1 thru 9, without replacement. The first to possess three distinct numbers that sum to 15 wins. Does Alice have a winning strategy?

Four Ships

Four ships are sailing on a 2D planet. Each ships traverses a straight line at constant speed. No two ships are traveling parallel to each other. Their journeys started at some time in the distant past. Sometimes, a pair of ships collides. A ship continues its journey even after a collision. However, it is strong enough only to survive two collisions; it dies when it collides a third time. The situation is grim. Five of six possible collisions have already taken place (no collision involved more than 2 ships) and two ships are out of commission. What fate awaits the remaining two?

Cap Colors

An evil troll once captured a bunch of gnomes and told them, "Tomorrow, I will make you stand in a file, ordered by height such that a gnome can see exactly those gnomes that are shorter than him. I will place either a red cap or a blue cap on each head. Then, starting from the tallest, each gnome has to declare aloud what he thinks the color of his own cap is. In the end, those who were correct will be spared; others will be eaten, silently." The gnomes set thinking and came up with a strategy. How many of them survived?

f(f(x)) = -x

Is it possible to write a function *int f(int x)* in C that satisfies f(f(x)) == -x? Without globals and static variables, of course.

Card Shuffling

A perfect in-shuffle of a deck of 52 cards is defined as follows. The deck is cut in half followed by interleaving of the two piles. So if the cards were labeled 0, 1, 2, ..., 51, the new sequence is 0, 26, 1, 27, 2, 28, ... With repeated in-shuffles, shall we ever get back the original order? In how many iterations?

Average Salary

Four honest and hard-working computer engineers are sipping coffee at Starbucks. They wish to compute their average salary. However, nobody is willing to reveal an iota of information about his/her own salary to anybody else. How do they do it?

Forks in a Road

A traveler has to pass tests of increasing difficulty to meet an Eastern mystical master. For the first test, he meets a pair of twins at a fork in the road: one path leads to the jungle, the other to the mystic. One of the twins always says the truth, the other always lies. What yes/no question should you ask one of the twins to determine the path that goes to the mystic? For the second test, the traveler encounters a second fork in the road. Again, one path leads to the jungle, the other to the mystic. This time, there are three look-alike brothers: one always tells the truth, the second always lies but the third sometimes tells the truth and sometimes lies. What two Yes/No questions should the traveler ask two of the brothers to determine the path to the mystic? Each question is answered by only the brother it is posed to. For the second question, the traveler may choose the brother and the question depending upon the answer to the first question.

Bigger or Smaller

Alice writes two distinct real numbers between 0 and 1 on two chits of paper and places them in two different envelopes. Bob selects one of the envelopes randomly to inspect it. He then has to declare whether the number he sees is the bigger or smaller of the two. Is there any way he can expect to be correct more than half the times Alice plays this game with him?

Measuring Weights

(a) Customers at a grocer's shop always want an integral number pounds of wheat, between 1 pound and 40 pounds. The grocer prefers to measure wheat in exactly one weighing with a beam balance. What is the least number of weights he needs?

(b) Customers come to a pawn shop with antiques. An antique always weighs an integral number of pounds, somewhere between 1 pound and 80 pounds. The owner of the pawn shop is free to do as many weighings as necessary to ascertain the unknown integral weight by using a beam balance. What is the least number of weights he needs?

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