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The Bicycle Problem

If you pull straight back on a pedal of a bicycle when it is at its lowest position, will the bicycle move forward or backward?

The surprising answer is that (usually) the bicycle will move backward.

When a bicycle moves forward, the trajectory its pedal traces with respect to the ground is called a trochoid. Depending on the selected gear of the bicycle, that trochoid could be:

  1. Curtate trochoid (for almost all gears of most bicycles)
  2. Prolate trochoid (if the gear is very low and the bicycle moves slowly)
  3. Common trochoid, a.k.a. cycloid (if the wheels of the bicycle and the pedal spin at identical speeds, practically never happens)
curtate trochoid
prolate trochoid
common trochoid (cycloid)

Since we are fixed with respect to the ground, by pulling the pedal backward, we are causing it to move leftward along the trochoid and therefore the bicycle will be moving backward. We note that despite that, the pedal will be moving forward with respect to the bicycle (but not with respect to the ground).

You can see a visual explanation of this puzzle in the video below.

Leave No Squares

How many matchsticks do you need to remove so that no squares of any size remain?

Nine matchsticks are enough, as seen from the solution below.

To see that eight matchsticks are not enough, notice that removing an inner matchstick reduces the number of 1×1 squares at most by 2. Since there are 16 such small squares, in order to get rid of them all, we need to remove only inner matchsticks. However, in this case, the large 4×4 square will remain.

Conflicting Words

What unique feature do the following words share?

FRIEND, FEAST, THERE, THOROUGH, FLIGHT, WONDERFUL, RESIGN, ENDURING, PEST, COVERT

Each of these words contains its antonym as a sub-word:

FRIEND – FIEND, FEAST – FAST, THERE – HERE, THOROUGH – ROUGH, FLIGHT – FIGHT, WONDERFUL – WOEFUL, RESIGN – REIGN, ENDURING – ENDING, PEST – PET, COVERT – OVERT