Bedouins Breaking Bread

May 17, 2014

RAY: This was sent into me by Richard Neilson. Two Bedouins were traveling across the desert to a distant village. In the middle of the day, they sat down to eat the loaves of bread that they had brought with them for lunch. One of them had five loaves and the other had three.

Just as they were ready to eat, a stranger came along and asked if he might share their meal.

He said he had plenty of money but no food. The two agreed to divide their loaves equally among the three of them.

After the meal was finished, the stranger laid down eight coins of equal value for what he had eaten and he went away. The traveler who had five loaves took up five coins and left three for the other guy. But the other guy disputed it, saying, "We shared the bread, we should each get four coins." Since they could not agree, they called in a magistrate.

TOM: Let me get this straight. They're out in the middle of the desert and there happens to be a wandering magistrate?

RAY: It happens. The magistrate listened to the story and then figured out who should get what.

The question is, who's right? Or, is neither of them right?

RAY: It turns out they're both wrong. Let's say the guy with the five loaves cuts each of his five loaves up into three pieces. So, he'd have 15 pieces. The guy with the three loaves does the same. He cuts his three loaves into nine pieces.

TOM: Ooh, I like it.

RAY: Now interestingly, they have together 24 little pieces of bread. Conveniently, there are three of them. So, each of the three is going to eat eight little pieces of bread. Now, the guy with the 15 loaves eats eight of them himself. That means he has given seven of them to the stranger. The guy with the nine pieces, he's going to eat eight of them and give one away. So, the magistrate says the guy with the five loaves gets seven coins, and the other guy gets one. So, who's our winner?

TOM: The winner is John Boyer from Manhattan, Kansas. Congratulations!

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