I’m a huge fan of brain teasers. I love pitting my mind and mental quickness against word puzzles and other challenges, so brain teasers are perfect.
A terrific example of a quality brain teaser appeared here a while back: the Men in Hats problem (pictured above).
It’s a great brain teaser because it’s deceptively simple, but requires careful, outside-the-box thinking to figure out how to solve the puzzle.
But there’s another kind of brain teaser out there that’s not intended to be solved. These are more tricks or bits of wordy gamesmanship than brain teasers. I like to think of them as brain melters.
Here’s an example of a brain melter I tweeted a month or two ago:
True or false? Thare are five mistukes im this centence.
Now, parsing it out, you can see the misspelled “thare” (1), the misspelled “mistukes” (2), the misspelled “im” (3), and the misspelled “centence” (4).
But the statement says there are five mistakes when there are only four, which would make the statement false. If you count “five” as a mistake, then it becomes five mistakes, which makes the statement true. But if five mistakes is true, then saying “five” ISN’T a mistake, so the total goes back to four mistakes, and…
You see? You soon find yourself in a brain-melting loop that never goes anywhere. It’s like the barber who shaves only the townsmen who don’t shave themselves. So does he shave himself? If he does, he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, he does.
Still with me?
Okay, here’s another brain melter. (The one, in fact, that inspired this blog post.)
If you choose an answer to this question at random, what is the chance you will be correct?
At first glance, this seems simple. There are four options, so the chances of being correct should be 1 in 4, or 25%.
But wait. Two of the answers are “25%”, meaning that A AND D could lead to the right answer, so those odds become “50%”.
But “50%” as an answer only appears once, so the chances of choosing “50%” are only 25%.
And if you keep following that chain of thought, you circle around and around and around, going from 50% to 25% and back again while your brain dribbles out your ears and down into your shoes.
Beware the brain melters masquerading as brain teasers, my friends.
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