Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My Socks:

I discovered a fascinating puzzle when I was young: A man is getting dressed in the dark. A clothes drawer holds twenty of his socks scattered all about: ten green and ten red. How many socks must he grab, so that when he gets to a place with some light, he can find a matched pair and put those on?

I was too young to object to a man who would wear red or green socks. I probably remember this puzzle because I got it wrong: “eleven,” I thought. If you said “three”, try this puzzle on other people, and be amazed at how often they get it wrong. But what's important about this puzzle, for me, is the lasting influence it has had on my life. I often get dressed in the dark. I have a drawer that frequently holds more than forty socks. I just grab any two of them and put them on. They're all black.

5 comments:

Martin Langeland said...

Logic is wonderful but not a substitute for the law of averages.
Theoretically three will work. But the law of averages dictates that a certain number of times you pick three pieces out of twenty the three will be all the same.
Be safe. Turn on the closet light.
--ml

The Blogger said...

Martin! If I pick three socks out of the drawer of red and green and they are all the same, then ANY TWO of those three make a matched pair!!!!!!!!

Please email me at tobyr21 at gmail.com; I'd like to send you an email some time.
- PB

Martin Langeland said...

Oh my. So they would.
Impertinent, sez I.
No wonder I failed logic.
Never could get past the notion that pie is round.
--ml

Patrick said...

I do the same - all my socks (well, nearly all - I have a few "specials") are the same. If you have forty black socks and you lose one, you still have 19 pairs and a spare. Or when a few start to show their age, I toss them and go by a few more pair. The design of the socks I wear changes subtly with time, so they are not always identical, but usually no one notices.

The Blogger said...

Patrick, the design of my socks also changes over time. My manufacturer experiments with different fabrics, and he has also added a very visible logo that is hidden inside the shoe. I think no one notices these changes. I regard all the socks as interchangeable.
- PB