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Magic Tricks

# Magic Tricks

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Published by Jacob Richey

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Published by: Jacob Richey on Oct 01, 2010
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11/24/2010

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I recently found two new "magic tricks" which are really just riddles; they are of similar structure,content and cuteness, and though I cheated on the first one I was able to solve the more challengingsecond one. The riddle I heard first is as follows:Two magicians are to preform a magic trick with a deck of cards. One mathematician leaves theroom while the other has a member from the audience select five cards from the deck at random. Hethen removes one of the cards, gives it back to the audience member, and sets the remaining four ina pile face down on a table in an order of his choosing. The first mathematician then returns to theroom, looks at the cards, and from their order is able to deduce the identity of the card in the audi-ence (suit and value, Ace, 2, 3, ... King). How is this trick done?The second is a problem I found in a Russian mathematical Olympiad from 2007 (quoted here):A conjurer Arutyun and his assistant Amayak are going to show following super-trick. A circle isdrawn on the board in the room. Spectators mark 2007 distinct points on this circle, after thatAmayak removes one of them. Then Arutyun comes to the room and shows a semicircle, to whichthe removed point belonged. Explain, how Arutyun and Amayak may show this super-trick.Laughable and unintentionally comical translators aside, this second problem proved quite interest-ing. My instinct was naturally to start with 2 points on the circle and hope to either 1) develop arecursive solution or 2) see a general one that would work for any number of points. I ended updoing the latter, though I think there is an equivalent recursive way of looking at it. Before we get tothat, I'll go over the solution to the first problem, as well as my numerous failed attempts at solvingit.My first guess was to give the suit of the unknown card by the top card in the pile: this can be donebecause there are only 4 suits to go among 5 cards, and consequently at least two of the cards musthave the same suit. Then we just have to determine the value of the card, from among 13 possiblevalues, with the remaining 3 cards. This seems, at first glance, impossible; I quickly and mistakenlyassumed that not making use of the value of the first card was too great a loss of possible coding,

and thus abandoned that strategy. I went on to create elaborate codes using the 4 cards, noting someuseless points as well as one important one: if the mathematicians pre-agree on a certain ordering of the 52 cards of the deck then they can both see the same "code" for any 4 cards in the followingmanner. The one that is first in the ordering is given a 1, and so on, so that any of the 24 combina-tions of the digits 1,2,3 and 4 may be communicated. I attempted to make use of the special cases of the cards, i.e. where there are 2 of a kind, 3 of a kind, and so on, and use that to indicate the value.That kind of information proved difficult and sometimes impossible to translate, making the solutiona sub 100% one.The 100% solution is this: First, use the first card to indicate the suit. Then, using the same codingtechnique among the remaining 3 cards, we can create 6 different codes: {{1,2,3}, {1,3,2}, ...{3,2,1}}. The way we "double" that 6 to create 12 codes is by picking which of the two cards thathad the same suit to keep (and thus making use of that card's value). We pick the one that is less thanor equal to 6 "less" than the other one, working mod 13. For example, given the 8 and 3 of hearts,we keep the 3, since it is 5 less than 8; given the 8 and Ace (1) of hearts, we keep the 8 because it is 6less than 1 (1-6 = -5 = 8 mod 13). We could have also picked the one that is less than or equal to 6greater than the other one, it doesn't matter; all that does is that both mathematicians know whichdirection they are working. Finally, we code the number our chosen card is less than the other onewith the remaining 3 cards. Once that is done, we hand over the pile; the other mathematician seesthe suit of the card, and knows to add some number to its value to obtain that of the unknown card.The similar principle between this problem and the next is the crux of both: that there always existsthat "ordering" of the two numbers between 1 and 13 so that their difference has absolute value lessthan or equal to 6. (The second problem uses the geometric analog of this discrete integer principle.)So, how can Amayak and Arutyun preform this super trick? Similarly, it has many (even more, infact) very-close solutions: note first that just drawing a random semi-circle gives you a 50% chance,and it isn't particularly hard to do better. However, the 100% solution is just that; it does require ashort lemma, to prove the existence of the "chain" we'll be using (equivalent to the pair of #'s in thecard trick).
2

Magic Tricks.nb

Lemma:
For any arrangement of
N
points on a circle,
a series of points of size
N
, i.e. an ordering
P
1
,
P
2
,...
P
N
so that each
P
i
is adjacent on the circumference to
P
i
1
and
P
i
1
(mod
N
), and thedistance between
P
i
and
P
i
1
clockwise along the circumference of the circle is less than or equal to
Π
, assuming a unit circle,

i
Ε
1,
. (Note: This does not require
P
N
be less than or equal to
Π
units from
P
1
.)Proof: Assume that such an ordering doesn't exist. Then there must be some troublesome point, i.e.one that is more than
Π
from the point "behind" it in our sequencing. Then we simply have to recre-ate the ordering again, starting at this "troublesome point;" since it was more than
Π
from the pointbehind it, it must be less than
Π
from the point in front of it because the circle has circumference 2
Π
and all the points are distinct, and so the ordering should work. After doing so, we realize that therecannot be any more troublesome points, because the first troublesome point's existence implies thatthere are no points at all on
12
of the circumference, and thus the cycle just has to start at the firstpoint in the other
12
of the circle, and the resulting series can never violate our conditions.
Let's take a look at some examples:
Magic Tricks.nb
3

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