The Pasta Puzzle

You have 10 strings of pasta left on your plate. You randomly start tying up their ends, until there are no loose ends anymore. What is the average number of loops which are created?

The expected (average) number of loops at the end of the procedure is equal to the expected number of loops created after the first tying, plus the expected number of loops created after the second tying, etc. After each tying, the number of non-loop strings decreases by 1, and then the probabilities to create a new loop are 1/19, 1/17, 1/15, etc. Therefore, the answer is the sum 1/19 + 1/17 + 1/15 + … + 1/3 + 1/1 ~ 2.1.

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