Government Work

Andy is a lazy census taker. He sits in the doorway of his house and counts each pedestrian who walks by.

“That’s no way to do it,” says Bill. He leaves the house and walks up and down the street, counting each person he passes.

After an hour he returns to the house and the two compare totals. Was Bill right? Assume all pedestrians walk at the same speed.

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The Mensa Diet

Finding himself hot and overweight at an Air Force base during World War II, Jerry Salny decided he could shed pounds by drinking scotch and soda. Here’s his reasoning:

  • It takes 1 calorie of heat to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1° Celsius.
  • A glass holds about 200 cc of scotch, soda, and ice. Its temperature is 0° Celsius.
  • As he drinks the scotch and soda, his body must supply enough heat to raise 200 grams to body temperature, or 37°C.
  • That’s 200 grams × 37°C, or 7,400 calories.
  • “Since all the calorie books show scotch as having 100 calories per ounce, and none at all for the soda, we should be able to drink scotch and soda all day and lose weight like mad.”

“This has been tried,” Salny reported, “and although the experimenter hasn’t lost any weight in the process, he doesn’t worry about it much anymore.”

Why doesn’t it work?

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The Pony Puzzle

pony puzzle

Sam Loyd claimed to have sold “one thousand million” of these puzzles in the late 1800s, but the solution requires an insight that most solvers overlooked.

“Cut out the six pieces very carefully, then try to arrange them to make the best possible figure of a horse. That is all there is to it, but the entire world laughed for a year over the many grotesque representations of a horse that can be made with those six pieces.”

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The Trouble With Waistcoats

the trouble with waistcoats

Now, sir, your coat is off!
And see–
Your right-hand pocketed!
So let it be:
While o’er your arm
An endless string–
Some three yards round–
Hangs like a sling.
Take the string off–
But, just for fun,
It must be done
Keeping your right-hand in its place,
And not a smile must stir your face.
Until you find this puzzle out,
No coat shall wrap your back about.

How is it to be done?

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Round Trip

A man eats breakfast at his camp, then travels due south. After going 10 miles in a straight line he stops for lunch. Then he sets out again due south. After going 10 miles in a straight line he finds himself back at camp. Where is he?

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“Grammatical Puzzle”

Let the rich, great, and noble banquet in the festal halls,
And pass the hours away, as the most thoughtless revel;
Then seek the poor man’s dreary home, whose very dingy walls
Proclaim full well to all how low his rank and level.

“Take away one letter from a word in the above stanza, and substitute another, leaving the word so metamorphosed still a word of the English language; and, by that change, totally alter the syntactical construction of the whole sentence, changing the moods and tenses of verbs, turning verbs into nouns, nouns into adjectives, and adjectives into adverbs, &c., and so make the entire stanza bear quite a different meaning from that which it has as it stands above.”

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Varying Reports

Which statements on this list are true?

  1. Exactly one statement on this list is false.
  2. Exactly two statements on this list are false.
  3. Exactly three statements on this list are false.
  4. Exactly four statements on this list are false.
  5. Exactly five statements on this list are false.
  6. Exactly six statements on this list are false.
  7. Exactly seven statements on this list are false.
  8. Exactly eight statements on this list are false.
  9. Exactly nine statements on this list are false.
  10. Exactly ten statements on this list are false.
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