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YouTube // TED-Ed

The Infinite Hotel Paradox

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YouTube // TED-Ed

Infinity is one of those concepts that we think we understand, but most (all?) of us can't actually wrap our minds around. German mathematician David Hilbert created a thought experiment called the "Grand Hotel paradox" to demonstrate the absurd complexity of infinity.

In this thought experiment, you're responsible for managing a grand hotel with a countably infinite number of rooms, all of which have guests in them. As finite and infinite groups of new guests arrive, you need to figure out schemes to fit them into rooms without displacing the infinite number of existing guests who are already in rooms. This turns out to involve a really clever—and difficult—set of math tricks.

In this TED-Ed lesson, Jeff Dekofsky walks you through the process, and may cause your brain to explode along the way. Have fun:

For more on this, check out the TED-Ed lesson page or the surprisingly good Wikipedia entry on the paradox.

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Can You Figure Out How Many Triangles Are in This Picture?

Time for another brain teaser. How many triangles do you see here? A Quora user posted the image above (which we spotted on MSN) for fellow brainiacs to chew on. See if you can figure it out. We’ll wait.

Ready?

So, as you can see, all the smaller triangles can combine to become bigger triangles, which is where the trick lies. If you count up every different triangle formed by the lines, you should get 24. (Don’t forget the big triangle!)

Some pedantic Quora users thought it through and realized there are even more triangles, if you really want to go there. There’s a triangle formed by the “A” in the signature in the right-hand corner, and if we’re counting the concept of triangles, the word “triangle” counts, too.

As math expert Martin Silvertant writes on Quora, “A triangle is a mathematical idea rather than something real; physical triangles are by definition not geometrically perfect, but approximations of triangles. In other words, both the pictorial triangles and the words referring to triangles are referents to the concept of a triangle.” So yes, you could technically count the word “triangle.”  (Silvertant also includes a useful graphic explaining how to find all the pictorial triangles.)

Check out the whole Quora discussion for in-depth explainers from users about their methods of figuring it out.

[h/t MSN]

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This Puzzling Math Brain Teaser Has a Simple Solution
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iStock

Fans of number-based brainteasers might find themselves pleasantly stumped by the following question, posed by TED-Ed’s Alex Gendler: Which sequence of integers comes next?

1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, ?

Mathematicians may recognize this pattern as a specific type of number sequence—called a “look-and-say sequence"—that yields a distinct pattern. As for those who aren't number enthusiasts, they should try reading the numbers they see aloud (so that 1 becomes "one one," 11 is "two ones," 21 is "one two, one one,” and so on) to figure the answer.

Still can’t crack the code? Learn the surprisingly simple secret to solving the sequence by watching the video below.

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