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Can you solve the temple riddle? - Dennis E. Shasha

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  • 7,378 Questions Answered
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Your expedition finally stands at the heart of the ancient temple. But as you study the inscriptions in the darkness, two wisps of green smoke burst forth. The walls begin to shake. The giant sandglass begins flowing with less than an hour before it empties, and a rumbling tells you that you don’t want to be around when that happens. Can you use math to escape the temple? Dennis E. Shasha shows how.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Dennis E. Shasha
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Director Outis
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Much of this educator’s work concerns a mixture of logic with educated guesses. This educator teaches a class called Heuristic Problem Solving in which students face puzzles every week and write computer programs to solve them. Some of those students have turned those puzzles into two or more people computer games. A few of those games even include an Artificially Intelligent opponent!

Please visit this site: doctor ecco, create an account and try the games. These three games might be a good place to start:
Gravitational Voronoi, No Tipping, and Pandemic. Are you all set with those? Try more if you like!

Like paper and pencil challenges? This logic book might just be what you are looking for: The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco. If you like that book, take a look for any logic book by Raymond Smullyan. Try some of his logic puzzles and enjoy!

Love riddles? TED-Ed has more for you, take a look at these three lessons:
Can you solve "Einstein’s Riddle"? - Dan Van der Vieren
The famously difficult green-eyed logic puzzle - Alex Gendler
Can you solve the prisoner hat riddle? - Alex Gendler
Avatar for Raj Mehta
Raj Mehta
The head (red guy) stays in middle and distributes his 8 students equally on 4 paths with the instruction that they should not return if they find an exit. The head waits exactly for 40 min at the center and then proceeds to the path with the remaining group along the path where the group did not come back.
02/01/2016 • 
 9 Responses
 / 9 Updates
Avatar for John Hamilton
If you have at least 6 expeditioners and you know for sure that the cursed expeditioners will lie, then you need only split them in to two groups of three taking any extras with you. Determine if there is 2 arguments or 1 argument. If there are two arguments go with the majority in all cases. If there is 1 argument, then go with minority in that group unless its in your own, in that case simply use your knowledge of what is at the end of your path. After determining what is at the end of the three hallways which were explored, you can determine the destination of the fourth.
02/02/2016 • 
 6 Responses
 / 6 Updates
Avatar for Christian Rousseau
Christian Rousseau
Seeing as how you are certain that you havent been affected and that there are 8 other people and 4 paths to explore: 1. Split the 8 into 2 diff groups to explore 2 different paths. (you are certain that 2 non cursed ppl will be in each group minimum) 2. Go down one path yourself. (you are not cursed) 3. Come back and if no one group is split on if they found an exit and no one claims to have found a path, everyone go on the path that no one went on. (if there is controversy, the chances that both cursed are on the same team and both lie is low) 4. If a group disagrees somehow on if they found a path (atleast 2 ppl deny or state to have found it), try it.
02/17/2016 • 
 3 Responses
 / 3 Updates
Avatar for Mark Leedom
Like others I started thinking, how many go with who and where but an idea stuck me... All the curse does is effect communication (specificity the data you receive), What If I spilt the students in groups of two (one for each tunnel), Whilst I stay put in front of the tunnel/path to the alter (so we know not to go back down this path). I tell the students if you see the exit just leave and don't come back and for the rest of the students come back to me. So in 40min there should be couple students who didn't return down their path back to the hourglass, hence telling us which is the exit. The is no need for communication, no conversation or arguing needed. Just instruction to leave and if cant then return. The curse has no effect.
02/18/2016 • 
 3 Responses
 / 3 Updates
Avatar for Peter Ramkissoon
Peter Ramkissoon • Princes Town, Trinidad and Tobago • LESSON IN PROGRESS
There are five tunnels, one of which you know leads to the altar. Therefore there are 4 tunnels to explore.However,you need only explore 3 tunnels. Split into 3 groups of 3 and each group takes a tunnel.If a liar or both liars are with you, the 2 will have a different answer to you but the others will know to trust you, and their groups will all have same answer. If your group say N/Y/Y, then the others know that you did not find the exit tunnel and that the unexplored tunnel is the exit.If the two liars are in another group they will split the decision of that group N/Y/Y or Y/N/N. You then know, to trust the sole member of that group. If 2 liars each in other group, then two groups will have split answers and trust the majority members.
03/10/2016 • 
 4 Responses
 / 4 Updates
Avatar for Brady Printer
05/12/2016 • 
 0 Responses
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Avatar for Sascha Trümper
Split all 9 in groups of three. Send them through three of four Hallways beside each other, remembering your hallway is the one next to the altar-hallway. Instruct them: If you find the exit, leave one there and return in a group of two. If all return in threes then the fourth hallway leads to the exit. If both cursed students are in one group and both of them refuse to stay at the exit, the uncursed stays there. So it doesn't matter, what they are telling you, the descision depends only on the number of participants in returning groups. IF you are forced to stay at the exit, because you had both cursed ones in your group, then the other students can determine, where the exit is.
06/04/2016 • 
 2 Responses
 / 2 Updates
Avatar for Michael Zakhia
Michael Zakhia
The proposed solution is not 100% true. What if the 2 possessed wer split in the groups of 3 (1/3+1/3+0/2)possessed . Supposing one of the possessed says the truth, leaving 1 possessed against 2 innocent people in a same group, in this case the leader(red guy) might be fooled to believe that the 2 innocent people in this group are the liers and in fact believe the possessed one, since the other possessed person told the truth and stayed hidden.
06/22/2016 • 
 4 Responses
 / 4 Updates
Avatar for Arianna Graham
i choose dog and i like the name sky by skylar
04/14/2020 • 
 0 Responses
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Avatar for Arianna Graham
i would think just to guess and go down the 2 people said
04/14/2020 • 
 2 Responses
 / 2 Updates
Avatar for LaTrisa Martin
First I know that the green smoke spray will come out and that you have a hour before it empties. find a safe way to get out. make sure you take time to look for clues on where the exit. pay attention to your surroundings
07/22/2020 • 
 0 Responses
 / 0 Updates
Avatar for Dimitri Harry
The students that are gassed argue with the fine ones so my coactions are if the two gassed one are together the answer is meaningless but the good part is that you can ignore the gassed ones so my coactions say that you have a chance to the exit.
03/22/2021 • 
 0 Responses
 / 0 Updates
Avatar for Anqi Shang
What if you can't split them into pairs and trios? If there is too much people then we can just leave the extra to wait there but if we don't have enough people ~ what can we do?
01/01/2022 • 
 0 Responses
 / 0 Updates

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Dennis E. Shasha
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Director Outis
  • Narrator Addison Anderson