When is a triangle like a circle?

This week’s Fiddler is about a generalized notion of “radius”.

For a circle with radius $r$, its area is $\pi r^2$ and its circumference is $2\pi r$. If you take the derivative of the area formula with respect to $r$, you get the circumference formula! Let’s define the term “differential radius.” The differential radius $r$ of a shape with area $A$ and perimeter $P$ (both functions of $r$) has the property that $dA/dr = P$. (Note that $A$ always scales with $r^2$ and $P$ always scales with $r$.)

For example, consider a square with side length $s$. Its differential radius is $r = s/2$. The square’s area is $s^2$, or $4r^2$, and its perimeter is $4s$, or $8r$. Sure enough, $dA/dr = d(4r^2)/dr = 8r = P$. What is the differential radius of an equilateral triangle with side length s?

Extra credit:
What is the differential radius of a rectangle with sides of length $a$ and $b$?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

Chessboard race

This week’s Fiddler is a puzzle with a surprise connection to physics!

A tiny ant is racing across a 2-by-2 chessboard, as shown below, where each smaller square has a side length of 1 cm. The ant starts at the bottom-left corner of the bottom-left black square and is trying to reach the top-right corner of the top-right black square. The ant moves faster on the white squares than on the black squares. Speed on the white squares is 1 cm per minute, while speed on the black squares is 0.9 cm per minute. What’s the least amount of time it will take the ant to reach the finish?

Extra Credit: Instead, the board is now 8-by-8, as shown below.

My solution:
[Show Solution]

Pancake race

This week’s Fiddler is a logic puzzle about getting home as fast as possible.

Alice, Bob, and Carey start together and each walk home at a different constant speed. Once all three get home, they can have pancakes! Alice can walk home in 10 minutes, Bob can do it in 20, and Carey in 30. Fortunately, any of them can carry any of the others on their back without reducing their own walking speed. Assume that they can pick someone up, set someone down, and change direction instantaneously. What is the fastest they can get to eat pancakes?

Extra Credit
There is now a fourth: Dee. Dee is the slowest, needing 60 minutes to walk home. As before, anyone can carry anyone else, and they won’t get pancakes until everyone gets home. What is the fastest this can happen?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

The weaving loom problem

This week’s Fiddler is a classic problem.

A weaving loom consists of equally spaced hooks along the x and y axes. A string connects the farthest hook on the x-axis to the nearest hook on the y-axis, and continues back and forth between the axes, always taking up the next available hook. This leads to a picture that looks like this:

As the number of hooks goes to infinity, what does the shape trace out?

Extra credit: If four looms are rotated and superimposed as shown below, what is the area of the white region in the middle?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

Ellipse packing

You’ve heard of circle packing… Well this week’s Riddler Classic is about ellipse packing!

This week, try packing three ellipses with a major axis of length 2 and a minor axis of length 1 into a larger ellipse with the same aspect ratio. What is the smallest such larger ellipse you can find? Specifically, how long is its major axis?

Extra credit: Instead of three smaller ellipses, what about other numbers of ellipses?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

Randomly cutting a sandwich

This week’s Riddler Classic is geometry puzzle about randomly slicing a square sandwich.

I have made a square sandwich, and now it’s time to slice it. But rather than making a standard horizontal or diagonal cut, I instead pick two random points along the perimeter of the sandwich and make a straight cut from one point to the other. (These points can be on the same side.)

What is the probability that the smaller resulting piece has an area that is at least one-quarter of the whole area?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

Perfect pizza sharing

This week’s Riddler Classic is about how to cut a pizza to achieve precise area ratios between the slices.

Dean made a pizza to share with his three friends. Among the four of them, they each wanted a different amount of pizza. In particular, the ratio of their appetites was 1:2:3:4. Therefore, Dean wants to make two complete, straight cuts (i.e., chords) across the pizza, resulting in four pieces whose areas have a 1:2:3:4 ratio.

Where should Dean make the two slices?

Extra credit: Suppose Dean splits the pizza with more friends. If six people are sharing the pizza and Dean cuts along three chords that intersect at a single point, how close to a 1:2:3:4:5:6 ratio among the areas can he achieve? What if there are eight people sharing the pizza?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

To jump straight to the results:
[Show Solution]

How high should you climb up the tower?

This week’s Riddler classic is a neat geometry problem.

Two people climb two of the tallest towers on an planet, which happen to be in neighboring cities. You both travel 100 meters up each tower on a clear day. Due to the curvature of the planet, they can barely make each other out. The first person returns to the ground floor of their tower. How high up their tower must the second person be you can barely make each other out again?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

Desert escape

This week’s Riddler classic is about geometry and probability, and desert escape! Here is the (paraphrased) problem:

There are $n$ travelers who are trapped on a thin and narrow oasis. They each independently pick a random location in the oasis from which to start and a random direction in which to travel. What is the probability that none of their paths will intersect, in terms of $n$?

My solution:
[Show Solution]

Cone crawling

This week’s Riddler Classic is a geometry problem about traversing the surface of a cone

The circular base of the cone has a radius of 2 meters and a slant height of 4 meters. We start on the base, a distance of 1 meter away from the center. The goal is to reach the point half-way up the cone, 90 degrees around the cone’s central axis from the start, as shown. What is the shortest path?

Here is my solution:
[Show Solution]