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Home » Dan Finkel: Can You Solve the Wizard Standoff Riddle? (Transcript)

Dan Finkel: Can You Solve the Wizard Standoff Riddle? (Transcript)

TED-Ed lesson: 

You’ve been chosen as a champion to represent your wizarding house in a deadly duel against two rival magic schools. Your opponents are fearsome.

From the Newt-niz school, a powerful sorcerer wields a wand that can turn people into fish, but his spell only works 70% of the time.

And from the Leib-ton school, an even more powerful enchantress wields a wand that turns people to statues, and it works 90% of the time.

Lots are drawn, and you’re chosen to cast the first spell in the duel.

The Newt-niz magician will go second, and the Leib-ton enchantress third, after which you’ll repeat casting in that order until only one of you is left.

The rules of magic duels are strict, and anyone who casts out of order immediately forfeits the duel.

Also, to prevent draws, the rules stipulate that if everyone’s still standing at the end of the first round, you’ll all be turned into cats.

Now, you must choose a wand. Your wizarding house presents you with three options: the Bannekar, which binds one target with vines and casts effectively 60% of the time, the Gaussian, which turns one target into a tree and works 80% of the time, and the incredibly rare Noether 9000, which banishes one target to a distant mountaintop and casts perfectly 100% of the time.

Your opponents are masters of strategy, as well as sorcery, and you know they’ll make the choices that maximize their own chances of success.

Which wand should you choose and what strategy should you employ to have the greatest chance of winning the duel?

Pause the video now if you want to figure it out for yourself! Answer in: 3. Answer in: 2. Answer in: 1. You reach for the Noether 9000 first.

After all, it makes sense to enter the duel with the most powerful wand.

But before you pick it up, you consider what would happen. As the most dangerous wizard, you’d also be the target of the other two magicians, and you’d need to take care of the most dangerous of them first.

But afterward, there’s a 70% chance you’d be struck down by the remaining wizard. That’s trouble.

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