An Age-Old Question about a Ship and Its Boiler

Mar 24, 2008

RAY: This is from my shipping series and it was sent in by Fred Gluck. He writes: "Back in the old days ships of yesteryear were driven by steam and it was often the case that the ship would outlive the engine and the boiler and they'd have to replace them.

"Now, take one ship for example. When you add the age of the ship and the age of its boiler, it totals 42 years. So S + B = 42. Now pay attention! The ship is twice as old as the boiler was when the ship was as old as the boiler is now."

The question is how old are they?


RAY: Here's the answer and I always like to plug in numbers because it makes it easier to understand. We know that S plus B equals 42. So, let's say the ship is 22, and the boiler is 20, right? That adds up to 42. And the difference of their ages is two years, so S minus B is 2. So when the ship was 20, well, the boiler was two years younger. It was 18. So using this example, the ship would have to be two times 18. Well, two times 18 is 36, so those numbers don't work.

TOM: They don't add up to 42.

RAY: Well, let's try two other numbers. How about, the ship is 24, and the boiler is 18, a six-year difference in age. So when the ship was 18, the boiler's current age, the boiler was of course six years younger too. It was 12. And two times 12 is what?

TOM: 24.

RAY: So the answer is the ship was 24, and the boiler is 18.

TOM: Wowsie.

RAY: So who's our winner?

TOM: Our winner this week is Marjorie Byrd, from Dryden, Michigan, and for having her answer selected at random from the boatload you might say of correct answers that we got, Marjorie's going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at, with which she can almost afford a CD collection, Four Perfectly Good Hours. It features four of our all-time favorite shows as they originally aired.

RAY: Congratulations, Marjorie!

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