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Knights of the Round Table

Probability puzzles require you to weigh all the possibilities and pick the most likely outcome.

 

Puzzle ID:#19885
Fun:*** (2.73)
Difficulty:*** (2.27)
Category:Probability
Submitted By:tsimkinAus*****!
Corrected By:tsimkin

 

 

 



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?



Answer

The 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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