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The 13-Link Chain Puzzle

  1. October 29, 2012
  2. By Gary Antonick, NUMBERPLAY blog
  4. http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/category/numberplay/

The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, which is dedicated to the appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematical ideas, was host to a Celebration of Mind event this past Friday. It was held to honor the life and many interests of recreational mathematician Martin Gardner, whose puzzles have appeared so frequently in Numberplay. I was delighted to be a part of the celebration, and came away with several terrific puzzles.

My favorite is the following scale and chain challenge, which was suggested by Dr. Ashok Vaish.

The 13-Link Chain Puzzle
You have a balance scale and a single chain with thirteen links. Each link of the chain weighs one ounce. How many links of the chain do you need to break in order to be able to weigh items from 1 to 13 ounces in 1-ounce increments?

That’s it.