Thursday, April 17, 2014

Problematic Supervisor

Some people allege that I have a job.  I prefer to think of what I do as a hobby that I just happen to get paid for.  I had a particularly entertaining day today, which was most gratifying.

Some days I get to play with slide rules with people, some days we mess about with drawing tools or (joy of joys) turn data into shapes we can then render in steel or lexan sheets.  This week has been focused on algorithmic logic.

Here are some abbreviated versions of the challenges I posed my team this week.

Decision Model:
A large box comes in the mail labeled on the inside with a statement saying, "Inside this package are three envelopes, each containing a white powder with timed caps set to go off in ten minutes, OR when its envelope is opened - whichever occurs first.  Each one comes with a label describing its contents.  Only one label is telling the truth.  Two envelopes have a deadly weaponized toxin in them that will contaminate your facility for years to come.  You have already been exposed to a weaker version of this toxin by opening this box.  Your only hope of surviving is to correctly identify the cure to the weaker variety of the poison and open that envelope, which will wirelessly disable the other dispersal caps.  Yours sincerely, the Mad Poisoner."  You look at the envelopes.  The red one has a biohazard label on it.  The blue one has a medical Caduceus label on it.  The grey one has only a typed label saying, "The other two are BOTH poisonous".

Which one do you open to survive?

Mail Sort:
You have twelve boxes that all claim to contain items of the exact same weight.  Before shipping them, you are interrupted by a supervisor who tells you that one package contains the wrong item:  it is either just a bit lighter or just a bit heavier (you don't know which).  Using a comparative balance* exactly three times, identify the incorrectly packaged item.

* = the balance only reliably indicates equality or inequality - no actual numerical values.

Bonus (or Bogus) Problem:
What was the Secretary General of the United Nations' name 35 years ago?  No Internet-peeking, OK?

("No Duh!")