Speaking Volumes

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A puzzle by A. Kozlov from the Soviet popular science magazine Kvant:

Watching a solar eclipse, a girl asks her father how much farther away is the sun than the moon.

He says, “As far as I remember, 387 times farther.”

She says, “Then I can figure out how much greater is the sun’s volume than the moon’s.”

He thinks about this and says, “I think maybe you can.” How can she do this?

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Royal Descent

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A puzzle from Stuart Collingwood’s Lewis Carroll Picture Book, 1899:

A captive Queen and her son and daughter were shut up in the top room of a very high tower. Outside their window was a pulley with a rope round it, and a basket fastened at each end of the rope of equal weight. They managed to escape with the help of this and a weight they found in the room, quite safely. It would have been dangerous for any of them to come down if they weighed more than 15 lbs. more than the contents of the lower basket, for they would do so too quick, and they also managed not to weigh less either.

The one basket coming down would naturally of course draw the other up.

The Queen weighed 195 lbs., daughter 105, son 90, and the weight 75.

How did they do it?

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Black and White

dawson half-move chess puzzle

One more chess curiosity by T.R. Dawson: How can White mate in two half moves?

The answer is to play the first half of Bg1-f2, and the second half of Bf1-g2, thus getting the white bishop from g1 to g2 and giving mate.

A fair-minded reader might ask why Black can’t pull the same trick, transferring his bishop from b8 to b7 to block the check. The answer, Dawson argues, is that some of the constituent moves are illegal: Black can’t combine Bb8-c7 and Bc8-b7 because a bishop on c8 would put the white king in an unreal check on h3; and he can’t combine Bb8-a7 and Ba8-b7 because a8 is occupied.

From Caissa’s Fairy Tales (1947).

Crossing Guard

Suppose some 2n points in the plane are chosen so that no three are collinear, and then half are colored red and half blue. Will it always be possible to connect each red point with a blue one, in pairs, so that none of the connecting lines intersect?

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Match Point

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In all 50 states, it’s legal for second cousins to marry. So can third cousins, fourth cousins, and cousins of any higher degree.

Alex and Zelda are third cousins but cannot marry. Why? If they were not related, they would be perfectly eligible.

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Black and White

dawson chess puzzle

A curious chess puzzle by T.R. Dawson. White is to mate in four moves, with the stipulation that white men that are guarded may not move.

This seems immediately impossible. The two rooks guard one another, and one of them guards the king. And moving the pawn will place it under the king’s protection, leaving White completely frozen. How can he proceed?

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Cyclic Billiards

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A puzzle from Colin White’s Projectile Dynamics in Sport (2010): Suppose a billiard table has a length twice its width and that a rolling ball loses no energy to bounces or friction but simply caroms around the table forever. Call the angle between the launch direction and the long side of the table α. At what angle(s) should the ball be hit so that it will arrive back at the same point on the table and traveling in the same direction, so that its motion is cyclic, following the same path repeatedly?

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Parallelogram Puzzle

parallelogram puzzle

Point E lies on segment AB, and point C lies on segment FG. The area of parallelogram ABCD is 20 square units. What’s the area of parallelogram EFGD?

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