Problem: Defective Observation

Our observation of little things is frequently defective, and our memories very liable to lapse. A certain judge recently remarked in a case that he had no recollection whatever of putting the wedding ring on his wife's finger. Can you correctly answer these questions without having the coins in sight? On which side of a penny is the date given? Some people are so unobservant that, although they are handling the coin nearly every day of their lives, they are at a loss to answer this simple question. If I lay a penny flat on the table, how many other pennies can I place around it, everyone also lying flat on the table, so that they all touch the first one? The geometrician will, of course, give the answer at once, and not need to make any experiment. He will also know that, since all circles are similar, the same answer will necessarily apply to any coin. The next question is a most interesting one to ask a company, each person writing down his answer on a slip of paper so that no one shall be helped by the answers of others. What is the greatest number of three-penny-pieces that may be laid flat on the surface of a half-crown, so that no piece lies on another or overlaps the surface of the half-crown? It is amazing what a variety of different answers one gets to this question. Very few people will be found to give the correct number. Of course, the answer must be given without looking at the coins.

Solutions: 1

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References

Project Gutenberg

1. Dudeney, H. E.: "Amusements in Mathematics", The Authors' Club, 1917

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