Normal Person

I caused my mother’s death and didn’t get convicted.
I married 100 women and never got divorced.
I got born before my father, but I am considered perfectly normal?

Who am I?

A priest, whose mother dies from labor, who marries 100 women to 100 men, and whose father attends his birth.

Crashing Light Bulbs

You are living in a 100-floor apartment block. You know that there is one floor in the block, such that if you drop a light bulb from there or anywhere higher, it will crash upon hitting the ground. If you drop a light bulb from any floor underneath it however, the light bulb will remain intact. If you have two light bulbs at your disposal, how many drop attempts do you need such that you can surely find which the floor in question is?

The answer is 14 drops. You can do this by throwing the first bulb from floors 14, 27, 39, 50, 60, 69, 77, 84, 90, 95, 99, 100 (notice that the difference decreases always by 1) until it crashes and then start throwing the second bulb from the floors in between. For example, if the first bulb crashes at floor 69, you start throwing the second bulb from floors 61, 62, 63, etc. This way the total number of throws would be always at most 14.

Proving that 14 is optimal is done using the same logic. In order to use at most 13 throws, the first throw should be made from floor 13 or lower. The second throw should be made from floor 13+12 or lower, the third throw should be made from floor 13+12+11 or lower, etc. Continuing with the same argument, we conclude that the 13th drop should be made from floor 13+12+…+2+1=91 or lower. However, if the first light bulb does not crash after the last throw, you will not be able to find out which number among 92-100 is X.

The Majority Name

In a long list of names, one of the names appears more than half of the time. You will be read the names one at a time, without knowing how many they are, and without being able to write them down. If you have a very weak memory, how can you figure out which is the majority name?

Remember the first name and then keep track of whether it has been repeated more than half of the time. To do that, simply add 1 if you hear the name or subtract one when you hear another name. If the list finishes and your counter is positive, then the first name is the majority. If your counter drops to 0, simply restart the procedure with the next name you hear.

This algorithm, invented by R. Boyer and J. Moore, works, because if the counter ends up at 0, then each of the names up to that moment has been read at most half of the time. Therefore, the majority name appears more than half of the time in the remainder of the list.

Vectors -1, 0, 1

Consider all 1024 vectors in a 10-dimensional space with elements ±1. Show that if you change some of the elements of some of the vectors to 0, you can still choose a few vectors, such that their sum is equal to the 0-vector.

Denote the 1024 vectors with ui and their transformations with f(ui). Create a graph with 1024 nodes, labeled with ui. Then, for every node ui, create a directed edge from ui to ui-2f(ui). This is a valid construction, since the vector ui-2f(ui) has elements -1, 0, and 1 only. In the resulting graph, there is a cycle:

v1 ⇾ v2 ⇾ … ⇾ vk ⇾ v1.

Now, if we pick the (transformed) vectors from this cycle, their sum is the 0-vector:

f(v1) + f(v2) + … + f(vk) = (v2 – v1)/2 + (v3 – v2)/2 + … + (v1 – vk)/2 = 0.

Larger or Smaller

Alice secretly picks two different integers by an unknown process and puts them in two envelopes. Bob chooses one of the two envelopes randomly (with a fair coin toss) and shows you the number in that envelope. Now you must guess whether the number in the other, closed envelope is larger or smaller than the one you have seen.

Is there a strategy which gives you a better than 50% chance of guessing correctly, no matter what procedure Alice used to pick her numbers?

Choose any strictly decreasing function F on the set of all integers which takes values between 0 and 1. Now, if you see the number X in Bob’s envelope, guess with probability F(X) that this number is smaller. If the two numbers in the envelopes are A and B, then your probability of guessing correctly is equal to:

F(A) * 0.5 + (1 – F(B)) * 0.5 = 0.5 + 0.5 * (F(A) – F(B)) > 50%.