Friday, September 28, 2007

Can you tame your mind?

Solve the following puzzles and see how many you can crack. Answers need not match exactly, but if you have a logical answer that matches the situation, you can consider that as a correct answer.

  1. A man and his son were on a tour of an atomic power plant. In the control room, the boy asked if he could see the controls for the reactor core. The head physicist said yes, and explained how the controls worked. After the boy left, the head physicist turned to an assistant and said, "That was my son." How could that be?
  2. Three kids from Bristol went for a walk. About a mile into the walk, they came to a deep, wide river. There was no bridge. They didn’t have a boat or raft, or any materials to make one. None of them could swim. How did they get across?
  3. Jane walked out the back door of her farmhouse on a Thursday afternoon and found a man’s pipe, a scarf and three lumps of coal lying on the wet grass near the barn. The nearest neighbours lived a mile away, and no-one had visited that day. Where did the objects come from?
  4. A true story: a white horse jumped over a castle and landed on a bishop, who immediately disappeared from the landscape. Where did this take place?

I came across these puzzles during one of my stumbling sessions. All of them have very logical common sense answers, but chances are high that you couldn’t find any explanations for them. Especially the second and third puzzles.

Check answers to the puzzles here.

Now that you know what the answers are it would be quite clear to you why you could nail the 1st and the 4th one, but the 2nd and 3rd were beyond reach. To state the obvious – it’s simply because we generally don’t encounter such situations in our lives. Frozen river and snowmen aren’t something we are used to in most parts of India.

When I asked my friends and family to solve these puzzles, (was curious and wanted to test their reactions) almost all of them got the answers to 1 and 2 (yeah, we are a smart bunch). For the second one I got very weird answers that are too long to mention here. And for 4th, the most common answer was that it could be a dry summer and the river had no water in it. (But then, can you call a river a river, when there’s no water in it?) But that’s what we see in India right? No one could even imagine a frozen river – sure, we read it about it books, but it's difficult to think of one when you are given a real life situation.

I just want to highlight here that drawing only from our experiences might not be a good idea always. We cease to think of other possibilities simply because our mind refuses to admit them as ‘possibilities’.

Every MBA student will have at least one experience of solving a case study, that appeared to be highly complex one and had no straight solution and yet, when the professor points you in a direction that you had never thought could be possible, you would end up wondering why such a simple thing never occurred to you.

The older we grow, more grey hairs, more experience - the lesser our mind lets us wander to admit things beyond our world. Next time you have a problem to solve, tame your mind! They say 'think out of the box', but I say 'think out of your mind'.

But I am OK, as my memory sucks and I am a Capricorn and we reverse-age!


Anonymous said...

But then, can you call a frozen river a river, when there’s no water in it?

Janus Francis said...

Some times we cross the boundaries of thought and can be distorted in seeing things.How could question number 3 be a logic puzzle.lack of information is not a logic issue,it is simply lack of information.I can understand why these questions was stumbling to a lot of people,smart people.

As Francis Bacon once said
" Every fool can ask a question even the wisest cant answer"

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...Got 2 and 4 and I have a weird way of explaining 1 too (come shoot me!) - I logically "assumed" that the man leaves with the boy and that the head physicist could have referred to the man and therefore was the grandfather of the kid.. I am weird !!

- J

rinchen said...

I also got nos 1 & 4, didnt fathom what could have been ans for no 3 and guessed whether the boys walked a little bit further down the river to find a bridge. Duh! Although the frozen river part certainly is interesting...

Girl With Big Eyes said...

Think of it this way - if you had all the information necessary to take a decision, you already know what decision to make, don't ya? I am sure we all face situations where we don't have the luxury of making an informed decision - and then you either make an informed guess, or base it on your experience and apply statistics to it or just ask someone who might know the situation better than you!

J :)
I knew you were weird. You just proved it. I didn't think of that - thanks for sharing.

I am surprised you didn't think of the frozen river. Isn't snow and ice common in your part of the country?