REAL-WORLD REASONING PUZZLES
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facts irrelevant Real help desk callers don t do that, she says The trick at help desks is to triage the questions to quickly identify what part of the system appears to be malfunctioning (eg, hardware, software, user) and then ask the what changed questions
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27 WHAT S THE TEMPERATURE OUTSIDE
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This is an example of a projective puzzle The clues are so scant that candidates basically have a blank canvas from which to work
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You are stuck inside an office building, and you want to know what the temperature is outside How do you find out
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Hint: How far out is outside The way this puzzle is stated, with no specified constraints, tells the candidate that the interviewer is looking for as many potential solutions as possible While the constraints are unstated, most candidates understand that it s not in their interests to have as their only response, Break a window and put your hand (or a thermometer) outside, or Watch the weather report on TV In any case, the interviewer will shoot down the offered solutions Nevertheless, start simple to test the unstated constraints of the problem Whatever the candidate says, he or she should be prepared for an objection Here s a typical scenario: C ANDIDATE : Well you could use X to find the temperature I NTERVIEWER : OK, let s say there are no Xs lying around C ANDIDATE : OK, perhaps you could try Y I NTERVIEWER : Y is broken What else Eventually, the candidate has to consider what outside means in this puzzle C ANDIDATE : I m going to define outside as outside the atmosphere of the earth, in deep space, where the temperature is absolute zero Let s see the interviewer argue with that kind of vision! If the candidate is sufficiently outside the box, the solution becomes clear
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28 ROPE-CLIMBING MONKEY
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Sometimes the interviewer will have a simple diagram of this puzzle
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A rope passes through a pulley On one end of the rope is an iron weight At the other end of the rope hangs a monkey of equal weight What happens if the monkey starts to climb up the rope (See Figure 33)
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Hint: Assume that this is a perfect machine the pulley is frictionless, and the mass of the rope and pulley is negligible Start by considering the initial equilibrium situation, before the monkey starts to try to climb The monkey s weight acts downward, pulling the rope with a force w, and the rope transfers this force directly to the weight on the other end of the rope, pulling the weight upward with a force w However, the weight also pulls downward with an equal force w, which pulls the rope
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REAL-WORLD REASONING PUZZLES
with a force w, which acts on the monkey Therefore both the weight and the monkey are pulled downward by their own weights and pulled upward by the rope with equal forces This is why the situation is in equilibrium, and is why neither the monkey nor the weight move Another way of saying all this is to say that the monkey balances the weight, so they don t move Let a candidate who paid attention in physics class explain the rest: Now, what happens when the monkey tries to climb the rope The monkey exerts an additional force on the rope, so it pulls the rope down with a force that is now greater than w How is this possible In exactly the same way as any person would climb any rope when the person hangs from a rope, the rope is pulled by the person s weight, but when the person climbs it, he or she pulls the rope with a larger force Hopefully, whatever is supporting the rope is strong enough not to break under this extra force and the person can climb the rope This exertion of a greater force than one s weight happens every time someone does a chin-up, or in fact just stands up from the sofa The monkey pulls the rope On the other end of the rope, the weight is now pulled upward not just by the monkey s weight w, but by its climbing force too It is only pulled downward by its own weight, w, though, so the net force is upward Therefore the weight will accelerate upward Solution: The monkey is pulling down on the rope hard enough to pull itself up This pulling action increases the effective weight of the monkey The tension in the rope increases just enough to cause the weight to rise at the same rate as the monkey