A Rope, Two Telephone Poles... and Some Confounding Math
RAY: The question was: What must the distance be between the two poles so that the lowest point of this catenary is 25 feet above the ground?
If you made the mistake that I made and you drew the picture, and then went immediately and started to look up what the equation for a catenary was, you weren't going to get the answer.
But if you thought about it for a little longer you would realize that it's impossible for that rope to get down to 25 feet above the ground, unless the two poles are touching each other.
TOM: I'll bet you all the little nerds went right to their graphing calculators. What a dirty trick!
RAY: I'm sorry. It was a dirty trick. It wasn't really a mathematical puzzler.
Do we have a winner?
TOM: The winner is Kirsten Gilbert from Winter Park, Florida.
[ Car Talk Puzzler ]