Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Moment Of Zen

Recently, I and several family members and friends were standing outside a locked building waiting for someone who knew the combination to show up and let us in. The door had a five-button lock on it. (I'm not going to identify the building or our purpose for being there so I don't embarrass the building owner or give away the building you're about to learn the combination to.) The buttons were numbered 1 through 5. Talk amongst a couple people who claimed some familiarity with the combination said there were three or four numbers in it. Stephanie spoke up and said she once guessed the combination on the side door to the building. She couldn't remember what it was other than it had 3's and 4's in it.

Years ago, a friend of mine taught me to look at the buttons on cypher locks and check for wear and cleanliness. Unused buttons tend to be dull and dirty. Used buttons tend to be clean and shiny. I took a close look and saw that 1 and 5 appeared to have received less usage than 2, 3, and 4. I stepped back and thought a moment. That selection jibed with Stephanie's story. Since each number can only be used once, it was most likely a three-digit combo. That combination has only six possibilities so if it truly was a three-digit combo it wouldn't to take long to get in. As predictable as humans are, I figured it was not 2-3-4 because those numbers are in sequence. We usually try to mix things up. So after this short period of deliberation, rumination (Bear with me. I'm trying to get back to genius level), and cogitation (How often do you get to use that word?) I stepped up to the door, punched 3-4-2, turned the handle and pulled. To the amazement of everyone--even I was surprised--and to a chorus of "Whoa! How'd you do that?" I opened the door.

So that was pretty cool.

5 comments:

Pat S said...

<<(I'm not going to identify the building or our purpose for being there so I don't embarrass the building owner or give away the building you're about to learn the combination to.)>>

Right. Does Bruce Wayne own this building, by any chance? Or . .. were there any corpses behind the door?? Does this story involve bowling or miniature golf? (Just curious.)

Jacque Hendrix said...

Or maybe it's a beer and bicycle storage warehouse.

What are the chances that your post is pretty close to todays comic here...
http://xkcd.com/530/

Hank said...

Pat,

Like I said. I'm not saying.

Jacque,

Thanks for the funny comic. It is similar in that all parties involved thought of solutions they considered to be intuitively obvious.

13-b122 said...

Nice work! Nice logic!

John Speare said...

Cool. You're like Spokane's version of Richard Feynman