Pirate EscapeScience brain teasers require understanding of the physical or biological world and the laws that govern it.
A pirate is floating down a river in a modern sailboat after having just pillaged a small village upstream. The current is 3 knots with respect to the land. The wind is zero knots, with respect to the land. The pirate wants to proceed downriver as quickly as possible to avoid capture.
Should he raise the sails, or not?
AnswerHe should, since he can then tack into the wind.
If there is no wind relative to the land, but the boat is traveling 3 knots downriver due to the current, it's the same as if the boat is in still water with a 3-knot head wind.
Tacking is a way that a sailor can arrange the sails to sail almost directly into the wind. He could zig-zag down the river slightly faster than the current by using this technique. Hopefully those chasing him aren't so clever.
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