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See If You Can Solve This Tricky Coin-Flipping Riddle

Mental Floss logo Mental Floss 2/12/2018 Michele Debczak

See If You Can Solve This Tricky Coin-Flipping Riddle © iStock See If You Can Solve This Tricky Coin-Flipping Riddle Make sure your head is in working order before trying to solve this riddle from TED-Ed, because it's a stumper.

Here's the scenario: You're an explorer who's just stumbled upon a trove of valuable coins in a remote dungeon. Each coin has a gold side and a silver side, each with an identical scorpion seal. The wizard who guards the coins agrees to let you have them, but he won't let you leave the room unless you separate the hoard into two piles with an equal number of coins with the silver side facing up in each. You've just counted the total number of silver-side-up coins—20—when the lights go out. In the dark, you have no way of knowing which half of a coin is silver and which half is gold. How do you divide the pile without looking at it?

As TED-Ed explains, the task is fairly easy to complete, no psychic powers required. All you need to do is remove any 20 coins from the pile at random and flip them over. No matter what combination of coins you choose, you will suddenly have a number of silver-side-up coins that's equal to whatever is left in the pile. If every coin you pulled was originally gold-side-up, flipping them would give you 20 more silver-side-up coins. If you chose 13 gold-side-up coins and seven of the silver-side coins, you'd be left with 13 silver coins in the first pile and 13 silver ones in your new stack after flipping it over.

The solution is simple, but the algebra behind it may take a little more effort to comprehend. For the full explanation and a bonus riddle, check out the video from TED-Ed below.

Replay Video

Related: 25 of the Toughest Riddles Ever. Can You Solve Them? [Provided by Reader's Digest]

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