Posted by: tejat | November 11, 2008

A Brainteaser

This is a clever brainteaser that someone gave me a couple weeks ago that I thought would be fun to share. So not to ruin it for everyone, I’ll post the answer as a comment a bit later :]


You are throwing a magnificent party in your awesome castle and have acquired 1000 bottles of wine for the occasion. The night before the party, some devious person (blue group coordinator) poisons exactly one bottle. The amount of poison is so small as to make differentiation by mass or volume or whatever impossible. Yet the poison is so potent that it will kill anything that drinks it in 9.5 hours, regardless of how diluted it has become. Fortunately, your castle basement has a PETA-approved Acme Humane Rat Trap ™. In it are 10 rats that you may test the wine on. But, the party begins in only 10 hours! In other words, you only have time to conduct one round of testing before the party starts. How can you test the wine on the rats (not PETA approved) in such a way that you can determine exactly which bottle was poisoned? Keep in mind that because of the potency of the poison any mixture containing some poisoned wine will kill the rat.

I think there might be multiple solutions, but one of them is actually quite elegant!



  1. I think I’ve got an elegant solution, but the whole business of mixing little bits of wine together is going to take more than the 0.5 hr grace period! There are 1000 bottles: just opening them will take longer than that! But perhaps in my awesome castle I also have 1000 awesome handmaidens to help.

  2. … and pretty soon some very drunk rats.

  3. I got this brain teaser in an interview–it has a very elegant solution. I also got a follow-up: what if there were TWO poisoned bottles? The solution to this is ridiculously difficult, and I don’t really remember it.

    P.S. I know I blogged about this before, but if you love these kinds of riddles, you should check out the wu::riddles page/answer forum:

    This riddle is called the “Criminal Cupbearers” riddle:

  4. So I’m going to make a guess that the elegant answer has to do with binomial coefficients {10 \choose n} and poisoning the rats in different combinations, so that when the specific group of rat(s) dies, you can trace it to a unique treatment bottle.

    However, the first thing that came to my mind is actually quite inelegant, but effective if the poison is indeed lethal in exactly 9.5 hours…

    Since you have 1000 bottles and 10 rats, have your 10 magical maids each take charge of 100 bottles and one rat. The party is in ten hours, so you have a 30-minute grace period. Have each maid dose her rat with one of the 100 bottles every 18 seconds (30 minutes/100 bottles = 18 seconds/bottle). Then, if you can time precisely when the ill-fated rat falls dead, you know exactly which bottle is to blame.

  5. This calls for a binary readout by rat. Ten rats each with their own dish would allow you to vet up to 2^10 bottles = 1024 > 1000.
    One dish must be able to hold 500 drops of wine, and each subsequent dish half that of the previous.
    I’ll leave the rest to the next commenter.

  6. What if there are two poisoned bottles?

    Well, there are 1000*999/2 = 499500 ways to pick two bottles out of 1000. But if you only do one round and see how many rats died, there are 2^10 = 1024 combinations of dead rats. So you can’t find out which two bottles are poisoned (there are 499500 possibilities) just by giving each rat some combination of bottles and seeing who dies (there are 1024 possible outcomes).

    So what’s the trick then?

    Maybe the question asks you to find some number of safe bottles (so you don’t need to know exactly which are poisoned), or something like that. Or maybe it involves timing, like justpeachie suggests? Do you remember, rfgarcia?

  7. So what’s the answer? =)

  8. The (elegant) answer, at long last!:
    This hinges on familiarity with binary numbers. Number each bottle of wine from 0 to 999 in binary (0000000000 – 1110011111). Assign each rat a digit: rat n is assigned to the nth digit of the binary number. The binary number determines which rats drink which wine, 1=drink 0=do not drink. Therefore rat 1 drinks all bottles whose binary number starts with 1, rat 2 drinks all bottles whose second digit is 1, and so on. Then, if 1=dead and 0=alive, write down the status of the rats. So for example, for rats 1 3 and 9 dead:
    This number corresponds exactly to the bottle of wine that was poisoned.

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  11. Interesting article you’ve got there. Very interesting.

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  13. Binary, very clever.

  14. We are the United States 99% of the people, but that the realm was controlled by 1% of the people.” From Go bankrupt Terrace spread to profuse countries in Europe and America “occupation” activities, “99% of 1% of the declared encounter” has transform into a main Aspect. Americans in the good old days seems difficult with the “hatred of the lush” is linked, as they have always admired Bill? Gates, Steve Jobs predisposition and puzzling work by so “wealth” people of excellence, but the goyard bags monetary catastrophe three years ago, the enormous maturity of U.S. adequately of the people contrariwise “1%” of the financial giants, lubricate big wheel, corporate executives and next to the “revolving door” between government and secluded pad in the privileged class. Claiming “99%” of Americans are tough to upon back manage in the “1%” in the hands of potent national and economic voice. This “oppression” activities, the America’s richest and most greedy and the mesial order and the “grassroots” the gap between unreservedly revealed, allows people to descry, you as a “superpower” of the Shared States is bogged down in “public dilemma.” Faced with a growing grade sow dissension among and intensified range of the “type struggle”, but what the U.S. government as? Conflicting views of Democrats and Republicans if people would unprejudiced engage in bickering, and take no panacea, then, basically, to further their political and fiscal structure, people on the shortcomings of native frustration.
    99% to 1% of the declaration of in combat
    From mid-September, the “occupation of Wall Boulevard” competition has spread to close to identical hundred cities in the Collaborative States, Britain and other European countries has also been echoed. Some people hold that this is a no leaders, no important demands, there is no clear clarification for the messy wing, but well-organized observation can be initiate disparity between prolific and out people are most dissatisfied, the most meet slogans such as “against the covetousness of large companies, against corruption “and” oppose U.S. politicians only tend yon the group’s interests, “” condemned the financial giants to purchase with legal tender diplomacy “,” to regain U.S. mastery in the political and cost-effective decision-making “,” octroi the dark “and so on. Protesters are willing to ratify: “We are the United States 99% of the natives, but the body politic was that 1% of control.” Demonstrators in Seattle on the locality says: “The contrariwise reaction we bear in normal is: we 99% of sodality, no longer complaisant to endure the 1% of the penny-pinching and corruption. “In Washington,” the occupancy of Washington “campaign spokesman Greg? Fuyi Xi stressed:” We concern to avouch, because the Communal States solid companies and immense pecuniary institutions are in dial of our command, dissimulate b let loose the government reserve orders from them, and not after widespread communal services. ”
    Participate in “Wall Boulevard occupation” activities Protesters also held up, “We are 99%,” the catchword came to Creative York Manhattan Fifth Avenue, president of Scandal Corp. Murdoch, JP Morgan Pursuit CEO Jamie? Dumont, upper case grease big-timer Wei? Koch and profuse other billionaires show in represent of the apartment. According to the U.S. “Forbes” website lists America’s richest grease financier’s holdings file, the stopper two of the Charles? Koch and David? Koch brothers were $ 17.5 billion and $ 14 billion in assets, they and other The age of fuel baron basically 60 years of age.
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    “Occupation of Mad Street” race is truly from the Canadian anti-consumerism magazine “Adbusters” a topic selection. The munitions dump rewrite man Cali? Larsen stressed that the U.S. 1% of the fortune to enjoy a large amount of dividends, exhaust breaks, while the leftover 99% of the people to shoulder unemployment, defeat of resources and other pressure, dark to be to come so that they illustrate visible in protest. According to U.S. media reports, America’s richest 1% of the total set return more than 20% of income is the highest point of 80 years, this catch on to in the unpunctually 1970s was 10%. American economist Joseph? Stiglitz control algorithm is that America’s richest 1% of people away each year practically 25% of utter revenue, its riches is accounted as 40% of entire prosperity, which 25 years ago the figures were 12% and 33%. Information register that access to America’s richest 1% of the stratum is the annual revenues brink of more than 380,000 U.S. dollars. Classless strategist Maria? Kaduo Na said the up to date compensation of U.S. work executives five times higher than in 1980, while the run-of-the-mill American breadwinner’s so so salary is the 1980’s; American CEO’s typically annual return is $ 11 million , while the global club an typically of only $ 40,000.
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    British “The Unregulated” talking “appropriation of Partition Street” stand, said that the American people squawk that the United States has often respected unfettered capitalism, but modern this viewpoint can no longer be captivated looking for granted, more and more Americans are clearly au courant of the group growth of primary boo-boo occurred, they questioned the economic combination is no longer comparable to the fruit accustomed to the community. This leaves the U.S. medial class children are in discouragement because “the unusual social contract no longer applies.”
    Zhao L, told reporters, “occupied the Enclosure Drive” campaign that included the American stomach class in return the initial swiftly a in timely fashion to his “out of pocket”, they are directed at the 1% of the authorized class and same, somewhat, “hold on” flavor. Selected as the object of 1% of this plan, there is by nature a guide, “attracting eyeballs” indigence help to induce public sympathy. In the U.S., there are commentators that Americans do not reflect on their own over-consumption and over-borrowing problem, “declared war on the 1% does not resolve the problem, the need is from top to tushie together to coins behavior.” University of York, UK economist Bo Weike also told the “Worldwide Times” correspondent, in fact, entirely criticized the high-income groups is not de rigueur the economic Metropolis of London as high-income employees in the UK “contributions” to a gigantic amount of takings assess taxes.
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