What is Riddle: Definition and 151 Discussions

A riddle is a statement, question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddles are of two types: enigmas, which are problems generally expressed in metaphorical or allegorical language that require ingenuity and careful thinking for their solution, and conundra, which are questions relying for their effects on punning in either the question or the answer.
Archer Taylor says that "we can probably say that riddling is a universal art" and cites riddles from hundreds of different cultures including Finnish, Hungarian, American Indian, Chinese, Russian, Dutch and Filipino sources amongst many others. Many riddles and riddle-themes are internationally widespread.
In the assessment of Elli Köngas Maranda (originally writing about Malaitian riddles, but with an insight that has been taken up more widely), whereas myths serve to encode and establish social norms, "riddles make a point of playing with conceptual boundaries and crossing them for the intellectual pleasure of showing that things are not quite as stable as they seem" – though the point of doing so may still ultimately be to "play with boundaries, but ultimately to affirm them".

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  1. S

    B Penrose Diag Black Hole: Riddle Me This

    I'm no expert in this stuff, and perhaps I don't understand these diagrams, but having said that, I don't understand why the typical Penrose diagrams I see of black holes look the way that they do. They all have a 45 degree (light speed) angle for the event horizon of the black hole, and they...
  2. E

    I Why do the two mouths of a wormhole have opposite charges?

    It's about problem 106 and 107 in Gauge Fields, Knots & Gravity. There's a wormhole of topology ##\mathbf{R} \times S^2## on which has been defined a spherical metric ##g = \mathrm{d}r^2 + f(r)^2 (\mathrm{d} \phi^2 + \sin^2{\phi} \mathrm{d} \theta^2)## as well as a 1-form ##E =...
  3. DifferentialGalois

    Interesting Physics Riddle I Devised

    A theoretical astrophysicist was absentmindedly working through papers on Mossbauer spectroscopy, eventually coming to the Pound Rebka experiment, a remarkable test of GR. (Gamma rays were sent from the top of a building to a receiver, so as to measure the gravitational blueshift in such an...
  4. M

    I Why do two balls launch from the right in a Newton's cradle instead of just one?

    That question came from one of the students in my classical mechanics class, it took me unprepared at first but was able to give the correct answer in like half a minute. They liked it a lot and it initiated a useful discussion about laws of nature extending even to some particle physics...
  5. B

    B Delayed choice quantum communication - "Berlin riddle"

    At 12.00h a specific event is being expected in Berlin, whether the wall ist teared down, or not. The sender is in Berlin and wants to send the information about the event to the recipient on the moon. Both sides know about the possibly upcoming event. As the light takes 1 second to the moon...
  6. C

    MHB Trigonometric Riddle: Determine Wind Speed & Direction

    Hi, I got a problem I am trying to solve. An airplane flies at a fixed air speed which is unknown. There is a wind with unknown heading and unknown speed. The airplane has a known ground speed and direction. The airplane changes heading (with reference to ground), and now there is a different...
  7. T

    Was Einstein's Riddle a Political Commentary or a Personal Metaphor?

    The original thread was closed << Mentor's Note -- the previous thread was closed because of age, not a rules issue >>, but I am really interested in hearing your opinions on a couple of theories I had. I am baffled at the idea that someone, with the ability to understand the math language to...
  8. R

    Can You Solve This Math Riddle About Sum and Product of Two Numbers?

    Just for fun and for community participation, I offer the following riddle. The person who answers first (with complete explanation of how the answer is deduced) wins a free copy of Understanding Our Unseen Reality: Solving Quantum Riddles. Question: Susie and Paula's teacher gives Susie the...
  9. micromass

    Another Water Riddle: What Will Happen & Why?

    What will happen? And why?
  10. micromass

    Can Water Flow Slowly Enough to Evaporate Before Filling Up?

    Assume the water flows from the faucet sufficiently slow.
  11. entropy1

    B Riddle of the Bomb in Train: Solve the Mystery!

    I saw in an other topic the following thought experiment: In the middle of a train there is a bom with two lightdetectors. At both ends of the train there are two switchable lightsources. The two lightdetectors measure the respective light from both sources. We switch on both switches...
  12. Andreas C

    B Spy Extravaganza-Probability/Logic riddle

    The inspiration for this puzzle can be found here: http://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2016/07/31/spies-sharing-secrets-sunday-puzzle/ . However, as is obvious from the unnecessarily convoluted character of the following two problems, the rest is original. Part 1: James Bond, Ethan Hunt...
  13. S

    I Do Birds Flying in a Truck Affect Its Weight?

    As per the title, apologies for bringing this up again, but all previous threads were closed. Now, I can accept the answer and experimentation done, however as both a pilot and mechanical engineer, I just can't get my head around it. It's been bugging me for years, and created the account just...
  14. micromass

    Can All Subnumbers of a Number Be Prime?

    First a definition: given a natural number ##a_na_{n-1}...a_0##, a subnumber is any number of the form ##a_k a_{k-1}...a_{l+1}a_l## for some ##0\leq l \leq k \leq n##. I think an example will be the easiest way to illustrate this definition: the subnumbers of ##1234## are...
  15. Andreas C

    B A whole bunch of dice -- Statistics riddle

    Following the "enormous success" (it received a single like) of the last riddle, I decided to waste some bandwidth with a sequel! This one doesn't have an interesting concept or an unexpected solution, it's just hard to solve, so if you're looking for such a riddle, do yourself a favor and...
  16. micromass

    Challenge Can You Solve These Challenging Riddles and Win a Prize?

    Below are ##6## riddles. Everybody completing a riddle has a chance on winning the book "Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs". Rules: For an answer to count, the complete reasoning must be given, not just the answer. Do not answer a question you already know the answer to. If a question is already...
  17. L

    Algebra age riddle word problem

    Homework Statement son and father and granpa have same value for their birthday (except the year ostensibly) father is nine times the son's age now. calculate the granpa's age now. clues - five years ago, grandpa was 32 years older than what the father was at five years ago. -in five years...
  18. W

    I Horizon Riddle (Infinite Horizon Problem)

    I'm reading Cosmology by Harrison and in Chapter 21 he discussed the horizon riddle, I understood the problem that he posed but his solution was confusing. "Consider two widely separated observers, A (for Albert) and B (for Bertha). We suppose they can see each other. Each has a horizon such...
  19. G

    Is There a Time When a Watch's Hands Align?

    A teenager is looking at his father's beautiful mechanical swiss made watch, and asks him: 'Dad, is there a time of the day, beside noon and midnight, where the hour and minutes needles are aligned and pointing in the same direction ? '. What would you answer at the nearest second ?
  20. gjonesy

    What am I? A Riddle for the Hardworking and Strong

    This is a Riddle, one of my own so the answer isn't on the web anywhere and you all will be the first to see it. I have 4 legs and a very strong back, my name suggest riding but movement I lack. I do work faithful and true, its dangerous and dirty no one would want to do. By my strength so much...
  21. micromass

    What is the answer to this physics riddle?

  22. collinsmark

    Optimizing Prisoner Strategy for the Hat Riddle: A Simple Solution

    I was listening to a rerun of "http://www.cartalk.com/" today on NPR and was reminded of this riddle. It's been on PF before, but not for several years (at least that I'm aware of). I thought I'd repeat it for those who haven't heard it yet. I'm going to make a small modification to it though...
  23. SlowThinker

    B Boy/girl riddle (conditional probability)

    I've found this video about conditional probability: All steps look correctly, but the result does not make any sense. I'm ok with the part about frogs, but not so with the boy/girl computation. To sum it up: 1) I have two children and at least one of them is a boy. What is a probability I...
  24. T

    Solve Einstein's Five Houses Riddle: My Experience

    I once heard about Einstein's Riddle. I wanted to investigate a bit further so I looked it up and I found it. Einstein's five houses riddle. Some friends and I wanted to test if the 98% estimation was right, so we got together and wrote the rules down (our rules). There were ten of us, we had...
  25. C

    What Mystery Location Does I See Places Hidden in My Memories Hint At?

    Hi, Every year, my youth group goes on a summer trip, the location of which is kept a complete secret from us until a certain deadline. Before the deadline, our leaders usually give us a riddle to the location of our trip. Specifically, one of our leaders, who has a degree in Physics from the...
  26. pioneerboy

    Solving 'Hundepuzzle' with High School Maths Only

    Is there a solution to this game https://prlbr.de/2011/08/hundepuzzle/alle-karten.png in the form of an equation that only requires high school mathematics but no higher maths and informatics?
  27. A

    What's the Secret Behind This Riddle?

    What am I? Ice women a knack weary yum Andy tall thevish feud. Mine aim kennel sobe agree klet her? the answer is.... "Siamese fighting fish" Can anyone explain to me how the hell this is the answer. My chemistry teacher gave this as a random extra credit question on our test. I am convinced...
  28. Y

    MHB Is 7 the Answer to This Simple Riddle?

    I say 7, could I be wrong ? :cool:
  29. Q

    Kinetic energy, riddle me this

    Imagine two experiments A and B. In experiment A I load a gun with a cartridge and shoot a bullet. Total energy in this experiment will be E(heat) + E(projectile). I include recoil in E(projectile). E(heat) in its turn will heat the muzzle and some air. Done. In experiment B I do...
  30. EinsteinKreuz

    Sagittarius A*: the riddle of gas cloud G2

    So perhaps I'm not the only one here on PF who's heard about this .That said, besides the gas cloud G2 concealing a low-mass star, I cannot help but wonder what azimuthal angle G2 made its closest approach to the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*. The reason this is relevant is because...
  31. B

    Solution to Einsteins Five Houses Riddle

    Hello I am Badshot! I mainly created this account to reply to a thread about Albert Einstein's 5 houses riddle ( https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/Albert-einsteins-riddle.149083/ ) and because i just found out that i have insufficient permission to comment there, I thought I'd just put it...
  32. SpanishOmelette

    Riddle Me This: Vibrating at Light Speed & Time Travel

    Riddle me this. If it was possible to vibrate at near the speed of light, would that still create the effect of time passing faster for you but your surrounding passing through time at the same rate? Just wondering. I am aware that A) Time travel backwards would not function, due to the...

    3 barrel question / logic puzzle

    First of all, this is NOT a homework question. So I give you three barrels, one has 50 apples, the second has 50 oranges, the third has 50 - a mixture of both apples and oranges. However, I have intentionally placed the wrong labels on all of them. Find the minimum number of fruits you need...
  34. Basimalasi

    Can anyone solve this riddle using programming softwares?

    Hello computer science people, riddle me this... you have three black boxes and three red boxes. You want to connect each black box with the three red boxes without making the lines interact with each other. can you do it ? or is it unsolvable ? Like this :
  35. micromass

    Probability of Having Two Boys - Riddle

    I have two children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability I have two boys?
  36. micromass

    Physics Riddle: The Fate of the Balance

    What will happen to the balance:
  37. D

    Solve Polynomial Riddle: Find Coefficients & Rank

    Hi guys, My boss gave me a riddle. He says that you have a "black box" with a polynomial inside it like f(x)=a0+a1x+a2x^2+a3x^3 ... you don't know the rank of it or the coefficients a0, a1, a2 ... You do know: all of the coefficients are positive you get to input two x numbers and...
  38. B

    Where Does the Missing Kinetic Energy Come From in a Frame-of-Reference Riddle?

    Suppose a bowler is standing on the edge of platform of a train speeding at 100 m/s, a bowl in his hand (m=1Kg) has KE 5000 J. The bowler throws his ball at 10 m/s giving the ball 50 J of KE , so the balls has total KE 5050 J, right?. Suppose now that the ball falls outside the platform on...
  39. S

    Solving a riddle using Boolean logic

    Homework Statement A famous lawyer takes on an apprentice on one condition: the lawyer will train the apprentice on the business, and the apprentice will have to pay the lawyer only after she wins her first case. Right after the end of the apprenticeship, the lawyer sues his own apprentice...
  40. S

    Debunking the Myth: Birds in a Truck Riddle Explained by Basic Physics

    I'm doing battle with someone in a debate and I need some help here as, perhaps, I'm not articulating my side well or he's just so stubborn that he doesn't want to learn the error of his ways. :) It's the stupid old riddle where if you have 1000 birds in a plane or a truck (or any enclosed...
  41. alane1994

    MHB Solve Einstein's Riddle: Who Owns the Fish?

    Albert Einstein wrote the following riddle this century when he was in his prime. He believed 98% of the people would not be able to solve it. Good luck! There are five houses in a row. Each of the five houses is a different color. In each house lives a person of a different nationality. The...
  42. F

    I need some assistance in solving a riddle.

    Hi, First time poster and I believe that the people on this forum may have a greater chance of solving this riddle or making sense of we have so far. http://imgur.com/eUAete2 http://imgur.com/eUAete2 I am more than happy to go into the background of all of this, but in short, this is...
  43. B

    What Causes a Neutron to Eject an Electron?

    What is the force that makes a neutron eject an electron, and how strong is it?
  44. J

    Is This the Toughest Math Riddle Ever?

    Give this riddle a read. As an avid fan of math riddles and brain teasers, this may be the most difficult one I've ever encountered. I posted this in the Set Theory forum, but thought this audience might enjoy it as well. Let me know what you think! Be aware that the solution is at the...
  45. J

    A bizarre riddle using the Axiom of Choice

    I've asked many people about the incredible conclusion of this riddle, whose solution applies the axiom of choice, and have yet to find a satisfying response. I understand the solution, but I would like to know why the axiom of choice leads to such a bizarre result, while being so compatible...
  46. P

    Solve Hard Math Riddle: Commuter & Wife Puzzle

    Hello everybody Here is a wicked math riddle. Go ahead and see if you can solve it A commuter is in the habit of arriving at his suburban station each evening at exactly five o’clock. His wife always meets the train and drives him home. One day he takes an earlier train and...
  47. M

    Solve 8 Coin Riddle with 2 Weighings

    You are given eight coins of same denomination, out of the eight coins one coin is very very slightly heavy than the remaining seven such that you cannot separate it by weighing it in your palms. You are given a beam balance with the help of which you have to separate out the very slightly...
  48. M

    How can you measure 4 litres with two buckets and a tap?

    You have got two buckets of capacity 3 litres and 5 litres each and a tap. How will you exactly measure out 4 litres of water with the help of two buckets and the tap.
  49. A

    Difficult riddle about impatient people

    Two impatient people agree to meet up sometime between 3pm and 4 pm, in the era before mobile phones, just near Nelson's Column in London. They are so impatient they will only wait 15 minutes before leaving. What is the probability they actually meet up?
  50. N

    Walter Lewin's Riddle at 37:00: The Surprising Conductor Plate Spark Explanation

    At 37:00 he charges a conductor with a dielectric inside, removes the conductor plates and discharges them, and in the end puts them back into position. Then something "remarkable" happens - when he connects the conductor plates with each-other, a spark is produced. Why did this happen...