Knights of the Round TableProbability puzzles require you to weigh all the possibilities and pick the most likely outcome.
King Arthur, Merlin, Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain, and Guinevere decide to go to their favorite restaurant to share some mead and grilled meats. They sit down at a round table for five, and as soon as they do, Lancelot notes, "We sat down around the table in age order! What are the odds of that?"
Merlin smiles broadly. "This is easily solved without any magic." He then shared the answer. What did he say the odds were?
HintDoes it matter if they are sitting clockwise or counterclockwise? Or where the oldest sits?
AnswerThe odds are 11:1. (The probability is 1/12.)
Imagine they sat down in age order, with each person randomly picking a seat. The first person is guaranteed to pick a seat that "works". The second oldest can sit to his right or left, since these five can sit either clockwise or counterclockwise. The probability of picking a seat that works is thus 2/4, or 1/2. The third oldest now has three chairs to choose from, one of which continues the progression in the order determined by the second person, for a probability of 1/3. This leaves two seats for the fourth oldest, or a 1/2 chance. The youngest would thus be guaranteed to sit in the right seat, since there is only one seat left. This gives 1 * 1/2 * 1/3 * 1/2 * 1 = 1/12, or 11:1 odds against.
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