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Brainteaser:AMonkonaHill

(ExcerptedfromProf.EdwardH.KaplansLectureNotesforIndividualProblem Framing,Fall2006) At9:00inthemorning,amonkstartstoclimbahill,andspendsthenexttwelve hourshikingtothetop.Hereachesthetopat9:00intheevening,andspends thenightthereinmeditation.Thenextmorning,at9:00hestartstodescend alongthesamepathheusedtoclimbthehillthedaybefore.Takinghistime,he reachesthebottomat9:00intheeveningofthesecondday.Yourtask:show thatthereissomespotonthehillsuchthatthemonkisatthatspotatthesame timeoneachday. Hmmmweneedtomakesureweunderstandthesituation.Themonkstarts climbingthehillat9:00AMandreachesthetopat9:00PM.Thatmeansthatat anyparticulartimeinbetween,themonkissomewhereonthehill.Similarly,on theseconddaythemonkstartswalkingdownat9:00AMandreachesthe bottomat9:00PMandatanyparticulartimeinbetween,themonkis somewhereonthehill. Sodoweunderstandwhatisgoingon?Canyoudrawapictureofthesituation? Forexample,canyoudrawapicturethatshowswherethemonkisatanytime onthefirstday?Onthesecondday?Canyoudrawonepicturethatshowsthe monkgoingupthehillonthefirstdayanddescendingonthesecondday? How aboutthepicturebelow?

Geeallthepictureabovedoesisrepeattheproblemitsaysthatthemonk startsatthebottomandendsatthetopwhenhegoesup,andstartsatthetop andendsatthebottomwhenhegoesdown.Ofcourse,thepicturealsoshows youwherethemonkisatanytimeonbothdays,andhowaboutthattheup andthedowncurvescrosswhichmeansthatthereisaspotonthehillthe monkvisitsatthesametimeoneachday!

Whatiscute(andspecial)aboutthisproblemisthatonceyouunderstandthe situationclearly,theanswersimplyleapsoutatyou.Noextrawork! Nowdrawingapicturewasnottheonlywaytounderstandthissituation.You mighthavesimplysaidHmmmthemonkgoesupondayone,anddownon daytwo,andbothtimestakesthesamepath.WhatifIchangetheproblemto oneoftwomonks,withthesecondmonkstartingatthetoponthefirstdayand walkingexactlyasthefirstmonkwouldontheseconddayintherealproblem? Geeatsomepointthetwomonksaregoingtopasseachother!HiMonk!Hi Monk! Problemsolved. Oryoumighthavethoughtofananalogy.Hmmmthisisjustlikeacablecar goingupandcomingdown,exceptondifferentdays.Butweallknowthatcable carspasseachotheralongtheway,sotheresapointwherebothcablecarsare atthesametime!Oradifferentanalogyhmmmm,thisissortoflikelighting acandleatbothendsitwouldtakethesametimeforanentirecandletoburn ifIlititatoneendonly,orattheotherendonly,butifIlightitatbothends,at somepointtheflameswillmeethey,startingthecandleatoneendorthe otherislikestartingthemonkatthebottomorthetop,andwheretheflames meetisthedesiredspotonthehill. Takehomemessage:whenconfrontinganewproblem,makesurethatyou understanditclearly.Sometimesthatisenoughtoanswerthequestion. Secondarylessondrawingapictureormakingananalogyortransformingthe problemintosomethingequivalentthatyouunderstandbetterisagood techniqueforexploringanewproblem.