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1000 $1 Bills and 10 Envelopes

The Puzzler


RAY: All right. Here it is.

TOM: Go ahead.

RAY: I gave Tommy a thousand $1 bills, and his assignment was, first, come up with 10 envelopes, and once he did that he had to figure out a way to put various numbers of dollar bills in those 10 envelopes so that no matter what amount of money I asked him for, he could hand me some combination of envelopes and always be sure of giving me the exact right amount. The question is: How did he do it?

TOM: That's the question? I thought the question was, What was going on in your mind that you gave me 1,000 $1 bills?

RAY: I could've given a hint last week and said one of the envelopes has $489 in it. I could have given that hint.

TOM: Really?

RAY: Well, yeah, and the other envelopes...the other nine have $1...

TOM: I like that.

RAY: $2.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Four dollars, $8, $16, $32, $64, $128, and the ninth envelope has $256. If you add those up -- 256, 128, 64, 32 -- you come up with 511, because in base 2, the next number would be...

TOM: 512.

RAY: 512, OK? Two to the tenth would be 512, but he couldn't put 512 because you don't have it in there.

TOM: No.

RAY: So you could put 489. So you can get any possible number between one and 511 by using the first nine envelopes, and then anything beyond 511 up to a 1,000 using 489 plus one gives you 490, 490 plus two gives you, and da-da-da.

TOM: Man.

RAY: Pretty good, huh? Give me my thousand bucks back. It was only a loan.

TOM: Give me my envelopes back.

RAY: A further demonstration of the power...

TOM: Of two.

RAY: Of two.

TOM: Man.

RAY: You can't do it unless the number is two. There you go, see? The power of two. Right?

TOM: They just won't leave you alone. I'm almost feeling sorry now. I'm going to have to stick up for my little brother. Lay off the guy!

RAY: I know, relentless. Everybody too.

TOM: I told him to do it. We have a winner. The winner is Betty Benson from Houston, Texas.

[ Car Talk Puzzler ]

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