# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Solving the Fuel-Up Puzzles

We hope you are enjoying the puzzles we have been putting up in the last few weeks. Though all of them may not be directly convertible to GMAT questions, they are great mathematical brain teasers!

(Before we tackle today’s puzzle, first take a look at our posts on how to solve pouring water puzzles, weighing puzzles, and hourglass puzzles.)

Another variety of puzzle involves distributing fuel among vehicles to reach a destination. Let’s look at this type of question today:

A military car carrying an important letter must cross a desert. There is no petrol station in the desert, and the car’s fuel tank is just enough to take it halfway across. There are other cars with the same fuel capacity that can transfer their petrol to one another. There are no canisters to carry extra fuel or rope to tow the cars.

How can the letter be delivered?

Here, we are given that a single car can only reach the midpoint of the desert on its own tank of gas. Since there are no canisters, the car cannot carry extra fuel, so it will need to be fueled up by other cars traveling along with it.

Let’s fill up 4 cars and get them to start crossing the desert together. By the time they cover a quarter of the desert, half of their fuel tanks will be empty. Hence, we will have 4 cars with half tanks, and the status of their fuel tanks will be:

(0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.5)

If we transfer the fuel from two of the cars into two other cars, we will have:

(1, 1, 0, 0)

The two cars with fuel in their tanks will continue to cross the desert and cover another quarter of it. Now both of the cars will have half tanks again, and they will have reached the middle of the desert:

(0.5, 0.5, 0, 0)

Now one car will transfer all of its fuel to the other car, allowing that car to have one full tank:

(1, 0, 0, 0)

That car can then carry the letter through the remaining half of the desert.

For this problem, we didn’t really care about the stalled cars in the middle of the desert since we are not required to bring them back. The only important thing is to get the letter completely across the desert. Now, how do we handle a puzzle that asks us to get all of the vehicles back, too? Let’s look at an example question with those constraints:

A distant planet “X” has only one airport located at the planet’s North Pole. There are only 3 airplanes and lots of fuel at the airport. Each airplane has just enough fuel capacity to get to the South Pole (which is diametrically opposite the North Pole). The airplanes can land anywhere on the planet and transfer their fuel to one another.

The mission is for at least one airplane to fly completely around the globe and stay above the South Pole; in the end, all of the airplanes must return to the airport at the North Pole.

For this problem, we are given that a plane with a full tank of fuel can only reach the South Pole, i.e. cover half the distance it needs to travel for the mission. We need it to take a full trip around the planet – from the North Pole, to the South pole, and back again to North Pole. Obviously, we will need more than one plane to fuel the plane which will fly above the South pole.

Let’s divide the distance from pole to pole into thirds (from the North Pole to the South Pole we have three thirds, and from the South Pole to the North Pole we have another three thirds).

Step #1: 2 airplanes will fly to the first third. A third of their fuel will be used, so the status of their fuel tanks will be:

(2/3, 2/3)

One airplane will then fuel up the other plane and go back to the airport. Now the status of their tanks is:

(3/3, 1/3)

Step #2: 2 airplanes will again fly from the airport to the first third – one airplane will fuel up the other plane and go back to the airport. So the status of these two airplanes is this:

(3/3, 1/3)

Step #3: Now there are two airplanes at the first third mark with their tanks full. They will now fly to the second third point, giving us:

(2/3, 2/3)

One of the airplanes will fuel up the second one (until its tank is full) and go back to the first third, where it will meet the third airplane (which has just come back from the airport to support it with fuel) so that they both can return to the airport.

In the meantime, the airplane at the second third, with a full tank of fuel, will fly as far as it can – over the South Pole and towards the North pole, to the last third before the airport.

Step #4: One of the two airplanes from the airport can now go to the first third (on the opposite side of the North pole as before), and share its 1/3 fuel so that both airplanes safely land back at the airport.

And that is how we can have one plane travel completely around the planet and still have all airplanes arrive back safely!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Quarter Wit Quarter Wisdom: Solving the Weighing Puzzle (Part 2)

A couple of weeks back, we discussed how to handle puzzles involving a two pan balance. In those problems, we learned how to tackle problems that ask you to measure items against one another.

Today, we will look at some puzzles that require the use of a traditional weighing scale. When we put an object on this scale, it shows us the weight of the object.

This is what such a scale looks like:

Puzzles involving a weighing scale can be quite tricky! Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

You have 10 bags with 1000 coins in each. In one of the bags, all of the coins are forgeries. A true coin weighs 1 gram; each counterfeit coin weighs 1.1 grams.

If you have an accurate weighing scale, which you can use only once, how can you identify the bag with the forgeries?

We are allowed only a single weighing, so we cannot weigh all 10 bags on the scale individually to measure which one has counterfeit coins. We need to find the bag in only one weighing, so we need to somehow make the coins in the bags distinctive.

How do we do that? We can take out one coin from the first bag, two coins from the second bag, three coins from the third bag and so on. Finally, we will have 1 + 2 + 3 + … + 10 = 10*11/2 = 55 coins.

Let’s weigh these 55 coins now.

If all coins were true, the total weight would have been 55 grams. But since some coins are counterfeit, the total weight will be more. Say, the total weight comes out to be 55.2 grams. What can we deduce from this? We can deduce that there must be two counterfeit coins (because each counterfeit coin weighs 0.1 gram extra). So the second bag must be the bag of counterfeit coins.

Let’s try one more:

A genuine gummy bear has a mass of 10 grams, while an imitation gummy bear has a mass of 9 grams. You have 7 cartons of gummy bears, 4 of which contain real gummy bears while the others contain imitation bears.

Using a scale only once and the minimum number of gummy bears, how can you determine which cartons contain real gummy bears?

Now this has become a little complicated! There are three bags with imitation gummy bears. Taking a cue from the previous question, we know that we should take out a fixed number of gummy bears from each bag, but now we have to ensure that the sum of any three numbers is unique. Also, we have to keep in mind that we need to use the minimum number of gummy bears.

So from the first bag, take out no gummy bears.

From the second bag, take out 1 gummy bear.

From the third bag, take out 2 gummy bears (if we take out 1 gummy bear, the sum will be the same in case the second bag has imitation gummy bears or in case third bag has imitation gummy bears.

From the fourth bag, take out 4 gummy bears. We will not take out 3 because otherwise 0 + 3 and 1 + 2 will give us the same sum. So we won’t know whether the first and fourth bags have imitation gummy bears or whether second and third bags have imitation gummy bears.

From the fifth bag, take out 7 gummy bears. We have obtained this number by adding the highest triplet: 1 + 2 + 4 = 7. Note that anything less than 7 will give us a sum that can be made in multiple ways, such as:

0 + 1 + 6 = 7 and 1 + 2 + 4 = 7
or
0 + 1 + 5 = 6 and 0 + 2 + 4 = 6

But we need the sum to be obtainable in only one way so that we can find out which three bags contain the imitation gummy bears.

At this point, we have taken out 0, 1, 2, 4, and 7 gummy bears.

From the sixth bag, take out 13 gummy bears. We have obtained this number by adding the highest triplet: 2 + 4 + 7 = 13. Note that anything less than 13 will, again, give us a sum that can be made in multiple ways, such as:

12 + 1 + 0 = 13 and 2 + 4 + 7 = 13
or
0 + 1 + 9 = 10 and 1 + 2 + 7 = 10
…etc.

Note that this way, we are also ensuring that we measure only the minimum number of gummy bears, which is what the question asks us to do.

From the seventh bag, take out 24 gummy bears. We have obtained this number by adding the highest triplet again: 4 + 7 + 13 = 24. Again, anything less than 24 will give us a sum that can be made in multiple ways, such as:

0 + 1 + 15 = 16 and 1 + 2 + 13 = 16
or
0 + 1 + 19 = 20 and 0 + 7 + 13 = 20
or
0 + 1 + 23 = 24 and 4 + 7 + 13 = 24
…etc.

Thus, this is the way we will pick the gummy bears from the 7 bags: 0, 1, 2, 4, 7, 13, 24.

In all, 51 gummy bears will be weighed. Their total weight should be 510 grams (51*10 = 510) but because three bags have imitation gummy bears, the weight obtained will be less.

Say the weight is less by 8 grams. This means that the first bag (which we pulled 0 gummy bears from), the second bag (which we pulled 1 gummy bear from) and the fifth bag (which we pulled 7 gummy bears from) contain the imitation gummy bears. This is because 0 + 1 + 7 = 8 – note that we will not be able to make 8 with any other combination.

We hope this tricky little problem got you thinking. Work those grey cells and the GMAT will not seem hard at all!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Solving the Hourglass Puzzle

Let’s continue our puzzles discussion today with another puzzle type – time measurement using an hourglass. (Before you continue reading this article, check out our posts on how to solve pouring water puzzles and weighing and balancing puzzles)

First, understand what an hourglass is – it is a mechanical device used to measure the passage of time. It is comprised of two glass bulbs connected vertically by a narrow neck that allows a regulated trickle of sand from the upper bulb to fall into the lower one. The sand also takes a fixed amount of time to fall from the upper bulb to the lower bulb. Hourglasses may be reused indefinitely by inverting the bulbs once the upper bulb is empty.

This is what they look like:

Say a 10-minute hourglass will let us measure time in intervals of 10 minutes. This means all of the sand will flow from the upper bulb to the lower bulb in exactly 10 minutes. We can then flip the hourglass over – now sand will start flowing again for the next 10 minutes, and so on. We cannot measure, say, 12 minutes using just a 10-minute hourglass, but we can measure more time intervals when we have two hourglasses of different times. Let’s look at this practice problem to see how this can be done:

A teacher of mathematics used an unconventional method to measure a 15-minute time limit for a test. He used a 7-minute and an 11-minute hourglass. During the whole time, he turned the hourglasses only 3 times (turning both hourglasses at once counts as one flip). Explain how the teacher measured out 15 minutes.

Here, we have a 7-minute hourglass and an 11-minute hourglass. This means we can measure time in intervals of 7 minutes as well as in intervals of 11 minutes. But consider this: if both hourglasses start together, at the end of 7 minutes, we will have 4 minutes of sand leftover in the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass. So we can also measure out 4 minutes of time.

Furthermore, if we flip the 7-minute hourglass over at this time and let it flow for that 4 minutes (until the sand runs out of the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass), we will have 3 minutes’ worth of sand leftover in the 7-minute hourglass. Hence, we can measure a 3 minute time interval, too, and so on…

Now, let’s see how we can measure out 15 minutes of time using our 7-minute and 11-minute hourglasses.

First, start both hourglasses at the same time. After the top bulb of the 7-minute hourglass is empty, flip it over again. At this time, we have 4 minutes’ worth of sand still in the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass. When the top bulb of the 11-minute hourglass is empty, the bottom bulb of 7-minute hourglass will have 4 minutes’ worth of sand in it. At this point, 11 minutes have passed

Now simply flip the 7-minute hourglass over again and wait until the sand runs to the bottom bulb, which will be in 4 minutes.

This is how we measure out 11 + 4 = 15 minutes of time using a 7-minute hourglass and an 11-minute hourglass.

Let’s look at another problem:

Having two hourglasses, a 7-minute one and a 4-minute one, how can you correctly time out 9 minutes?

Now we need to measure out 9 minutes using a 7-minute hourglass and a 4-minute hourglass. Like we did for the last problem, begin by starting both hourglasses at the same time. After 4 minutes pass, all of the sand in the 4-minute hourglass will be in the lower bulb. Now flip this 4-minute hourglass back over again. In the 7-minute hourglass, there will be 3 minutes’ worth of sand still in the upper bulb.

After 3 minutes, all of the sand from the 7-minute hourglass will be in the lower bulb and 1 minute’s worth of sand will be in the upper bulb of the 4-minute hourglass.

This is when we will start our 9-minute interval.

The 1 minute’s worth of sand will flow to the bottom bulb of the 4-minute hourglass. Then we just need to flip the 4-minute hourglass over and let all of the sand flow out (which will take 4 minutes), and then flip the hourglass over to let all of the sand flow out again (which will take another 4 minutes).

In all, we have measured out a 1 + 4 + 4 = 9-minute interval, which is what the problem has asked us to find.

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

# Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Solving the Weighing and Balancing Puzzle

Let’s continue the discussion on puzzles that we began last week. Today we look at another kind of puzzle – weighing multiple objects using a two-pan balance while we are given a limited number of times to weight the objects against each other.

First of all, do we understand what a two-pan balance looks like?

Here is a picture.

As you can see, it has two pans that will be even if the weights in them are equal. If one pan has heavier objects in it, that pan will go down due to the weight. With this in mind, let’s try our first puzzle:

One of twelve coins is a bit lighter than the other 11 (which have the same weight). How would you identify this lighter coin if you could use a two-pan balance scale only 3 times? (You can only balance one set of coins against another, i.e. you have no weight measurements.)

There are various ways in which we can solve this.

We are given 12 coins, all of same weight, except one which is a bit lighter.

Let’s split the coins into two groups of 6 coins each and put them in the two pans. Since there is one lighter coin, one pan will be lighter than the other and will rise higher. So now we know that one of these 6 coins is the lighter coin.

Now split these 6 coins into another two groups of 3 coins each. Again, one pan will rise higher since it will have the lighter coin on it. Now we know that one of these three coins is the lighter coin.

Now what do we do? We have 3 coins and we cannot split them equally. What we can do is put one coin in each pan. What happens if the pans are not balanced? Then we know the pan that rises higher has the lighter coin on it (and thus, we have identified our coin). But what if both pans are balanced? The catch is that then the leftover coin is the lighter one! In any case, we would be able to identify the lighter coin using this strategy.

We hope you understand the logic here. Now let’s try another puzzle:

One of 9 coins is a bit lighter than the other 8. How would you identify this lighter coin if you could use a two-pan balance scale only 2 times?

Now we can use the balance only twice, and we are given an odd number of coins so we cannot split them evenly. Recall what we did in the first puzzle when we had an odd number of coins – we put one coin aside. What should we do here? Can we try putting 1 coin aside and splitting the rest of the 8 coins into two groups of 4 each? We can but once we have a set of 4 coins that contain the lighter coin, we will still need 2 more weighings to isolate the light coin, and we only have a total of 2 weighings to use.

Instead, we should split the 9 coins into 3 groups of 3 coins each. If we put one group aside and put the other two groups into the two pans of the scale, we will be able to identify the group which has the lighter coin. If one pan rises up, then that pan is holding the lighter coin; if the pans weight the same, then the group put aside has the lighter coin in it.

Now the question circles back to the strategy we used in the first puzzle. We have 3 coins, out of which one is lighter than the others, and we have only one chance left to weigh the coins. Just like in the first puzzle, we can put one coin aside and weigh the other two against each other – if one pan rises, it is holding the lighter coin, otherwise the coin put aside is the lighter coin! Thus, we were able to identify the lighter coin in just two weighings. Can you use the same method to answer the first puzzle now?

We will leave you with a final puzzle:

On a Christmas tree there were two blue, two red, and two white balls. All seemed the same, however in each color pair, one ball was heavier. All three lighter balls weighed the same, just like all three heavier balls weighed the same. Using a 2-pan balance scale only twice, identify the lighter balls.

Can you solve this problem using the strategies above? Let us know in the comments!