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Albert Einstein's Riddle

  1. Dec 23, 2006 #1
    So I've run into Einstein's Riddle...

    The answer is "The German" - but we're not done. What about the fact that only 2% of the world population will be able to solve the riddle? Say if you only considering the population in the USA, I'm quite sure at least 20% of the population should be able to solve this. Hell, the probability of getting the correct answer is already 1:5! Though, obviously it's not solving it.

    Something just doesn't seem right... There has to be more to this riddle.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2006 #2
    There is a good discussion about this in the brain teaser forum. Some say the german has the fish, others say that noone owns the fish. I think "Einstein" originally said that 98% of the population would NOT be able to solve it, thus opening the discussion as to whether it is solvable at all (Maybe there is no fish?) But then people point out that there is a THE in the question, not A. lol
  4. Dec 23, 2006 #3
    Assuming that Einstein said that only 2% can solve it does not make it so. Even Einstein is not excused from making statement without evidence. :smile:
  5. Dec 23, 2006 #4
    Because it's tied so closely to the riddle, I don't think he would just pull that number out of his butt... Even as an educated guess, it doesn't seem right.
  6. Dec 23, 2006 #5
    I think it is most likely he just used that number as a figure of speech. Not in a scientific way.

    Unfortunately some people think that each utterance and intonation of Prof. Einstein must contain something not less of near mystical truth. :smile:
  7. Dec 23, 2006 #6


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    One has to remember that there is a lot of misinformation on the internet. There could be any number of reasons for that particular statistic to be attached to that riddle. Unless you find a concrete source that confirms or denies it, it will remain a mystery.
  8. Dec 23, 2006 #7
  9. Dec 23, 2006 #8


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    As Kurdt points out, who said ANY of the backstory to the riddle has any truth to it?

    Both the '2%' AND the 'Einstein' appeal to our affinity for 'truthiness'.
  10. Jul 25, 2007 #9

    I Have solved this puzzles years ago and get throught it over and over again
    and i still derived with GERMAN as the answer because i considered that
    the fish in the question --> "WHO OWNS THE FISH?" because the facts said that there are 5 pets so if you will no consider FISH as one pet so what's the german pet ?
  11. Jul 25, 2007 #10
    I don't know, discussing such trivialities is not my cup of tea. I was just saying there is some discussion about that, and it has been largely discussed in the link jimmysnyder pasted.
  12. Jul 25, 2007 #11
    well ok a so what was your answer.
  13. Aug 16, 2007 #12
    possible explanation?

    "According to Special Relativity, absolute space and time does not exist and simultaneity is a meaningless concept. Just because there is no animal assigned to the German, does not mean that he owns a fish. However, it is easy to assume it when one reads the question. This is perhaps the thing that Einstein was talking about when he, according to legend, said that 98% could not solve this problem. Note that it is just speculations. Perhaps the truth will never be known."

  14. Sep 2, 2007 #13
    I'd like to offer a suggestion and have it discussed... It hit me the first time I saw the very last clue.

    First, here is my logic, feel free to point out how wrong it is:

    1) If supposedly only 2% of the population will get this, then the obvious solution that most people get in 30 minutes on some scratch paper, probably isn't it.
    2) According to the rules, no one drinks the same thing
    3) Everyone on the planet drinks water... Einstein, or whoever the made this puzzle, knows that.

    So when I read the last clue, I saw it as a trick question... Try finishing it without knowing what the fifth drink actually is.

    I've read people's ideas about the fish not being mentioned in the actual clues, therefore the puzzle can't be solved, but I think that's just them trying to explain why only 2% would get such an easy logic puzzle. Obviously the fish is one of the pets, duh. This puzzle is not unsolvable, it's just really hard without the fifth drink. Water doesn't count.

    -Aaron Desselle
  15. Sep 9, 2007 #14
    Did people really know how to do logic puzzles as we do know, back in the 1910-40's or whatever? Perhaps no one had heard of them or made them but the elite intellectuals.
  16. Sep 15, 2007 #15
    Of course water counts as a preferred drink, just as no one expects to find a person that drinks exclusively coffee (maybe beer).
    The problem is difficult because you must place every element in its proper place on the street. The clues imply 5 variables, but location makes 6. To find has the fish you first figured out they are between a Brit & Swede in Red and White houses at the end of the street. Along with what everyone prefers for drink, color, smoke & pets.

    I think the more difficult task was creating a puzzle like this with a minimum of required clues.

    Also I don’t think Einstein could have done this in the early 19 century. I assume they meant late 19th century while in school, or more likely early 1900’s
  17. Sep 19, 2007 #16
    You are right

    "just as no one expects to find a person that drinks exclusively coffee"

    This is actually my point exactly... Thank you. It is not stated that they drink their personal beverage exclusively at the exclusion of all other drinks, just that it is different from what the other four drink. You are right, you would not find a person who drinks only coffee (maybe beer, haha, funny). Therefore, a logical person would conclude that they ALL still drink water from time to time.
    It does state that their beverage preferences (when it comes to choices stated) do not overlap. Water can not be an exclusive choice for one person, because every living person needs water. I feel that clue 15 is simply pointless and a misdirection, because they ALL have neighbors that drink water. It might as well say he has a neighbor that wears shoes.
  18. Sep 19, 2007 #17
    It's an interesting proposition, except that the 15th clue (as it turns out) really IS unecessary. You CAN solve it without the 15th clue. Except the problem is that the answer is still the same as it was WITH the 15th clue, assuming water as the 5th drink.

    If your proposition were correct, then the 15th clue would be something like "The person who smokes Blue Master has a neighbor that drinks water". Because THEN, if you went ahead and assumed that water were the 5th drink, you'd end up with a conflicting answer, and you'd be convinced that the puzzle was in error, until you found the loophole of assuming water to be the 5th drink.

    But personally, I think that's a pretty silly assertion. You'd be just as well to assume that the homeowner isn't necessarily the same person as the one who lives in the house. EG that the German LIVES in the 4th house, but OWNS the 2nd house. Or perhaps that the "first" house referrs to the time that it was built, rather than the left/right order of houses. Or that one of the men's wives also smokes a kind of cigar. Or whatever. I'm sure there are plenty of loopholes like that. That's part of what makes word problems so difficult to write-- there's lots of unintentional assumptions that you can make depending on how the question is phrased.

  19. Sep 19, 2007 #18
    Fair enough, but I don't see it as a loophole, merely a logical assumption with some actual reasoning behind it. As you clearly demonstrated, there are lots of different assumptions you could make on several fronts, but my argument is this that particular assumption (that only one person drinks water) breaks the laws of physics when all of the others do not.

    The other ones you brought up are pretty good, actually, and would fit within the wording, but they would be leaps without reason for the sake of an argument. :)

    I guess I just can't imagine how someone would think only 2% of the population could solve this, unless at least part of it is a trick question. My argument at least makes more sense than saying "the fish doesn't count because it's only mentioned in the final question", right? And that one happens to be the official stance on several sites.
  20. Sep 20, 2007 #19
    Heh, that's how I see the water vs. 'something else' argument :)

    I think everyone gets hung up and bent out of shape about that percentage. As though that percentage were perfectly accurate and reflected the current world population. The reality is that that number is junk. How'd the verify that number? Test 100 people on the street back in 1935? Did they test college students? 2nd graders? Men? Women? Construction workers? People who didn't speak English? People who didn't know what a cigar was?

    Also, how'd they verify that the answer really IS the answer? Just because it's the answer they're *LOOKING* for doesn't mean it's *THE* answer. That's what I hate about word problems. You have to accept answers that fit the wording, regardless of whether or not they were what you as the author expected the answer to be. "The German owns the fish" fits the clues, and is pretty easy to verify. And if you made some of the other wacky assumptions thanks to the imperfect wording, you could conceivably verify other answers too, which you'd be forced into accepting. You'd be far better off having a lawyer re-write your problem so that you can't make assumptions other than the intentional ones.

    Meh. I happen to think the "fish doesn't count" point is similarly an argument for the sake of argument. I think people are intentionally trying to come up with loopholes because they think the problem as stated is too easy to have been composed by Einstein, or that it's too easy for the '98% unsolvable' statistic. So they try and come up with other interpretations in order to satisfy their belief/desire that they're somehow more intelligent or 'worthy of Einstein" or something. But the truth is, the problem is faulty. It allows for more than one answer, and probably doesn't accurately reflect the "98%" statistic it's typically presented with. Whoever the problem's author is/was would probably rewrite it differently without as many loopholes it if they heard all this silly hubbub.

  21. Sep 20, 2007 #20
    DaveE, everything you stated makes perfect sense logically. But it leaves us with two options:
    1) Accept that the writer horribly misjudged his calculation. Exactly what most of us would have done had the puzzle not been, arguably, credited to Einstein. You may choose to end the logic there.
    2) Choose to follow the white rabbit. The 98% comment opens a question, like it or not.
    You may choose to follow the path that anomaly suggests...

    Even if unintentional, I think this puzzle demonstrates, quite clearly, the different thinking pattern of different people... I was not surprised to find that your occupation is a Programmer. You would choose option 1. I happen to be an Artist and I choose option 2.... You stand on a solid foundation of logic and reason and they will most likely never let you down... For myself, although I see them quite clearly, I do choose to look underneath the rocks that we walk over on a daily basis.
    Message me if there are other subjects you would like to argue :)

    -Aaron Desselle
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