Apr 11, 1998
RAY: And the... The new puzzler. Now, I'm just going to recite this one because I liked the way it was written.
TOM: So, it's perfect as it is.
RAY: Well --
RAY: Well, I can't really just recite it. I'll have to mess around with it.
TOM: Of course.
RAY: This was sent to us from a guy named Bob Powers from Shreveport, LA.
RAY: And I'll just read it and throw in the obfuscations.
TOM: Yeah, the necessary obfuscations. I was going to say that it's unlikely that a listener could reach the levels of obfuscation that you can.
RAY: Well, it's pretty obvious that Robert J. Powers is well schooled in the --
TOM: Oh really --
RAY: In the obfuscation department. Here it is. A teenage boy smitten with a teenage girl, in his high school freshman class, made his feelings known. Overjoyed at finding them reciprocated, he took pen knife to a young hard wood in the vicinity.
TOM: Um hmm.
RAY: And carved their initials with a heart, five feet up the tree's trunk. Carved their initials within a heart, five feet up the tree trunk.
TOM: I see the puzzler already.
RAY: By their senior year, however, the girl's ardor had cooled.
RAY: She took her diploma, went away to the big city and married. The boy was crushed, inconsolable.
RAY: Bidding his family farewell, he took his small savings that he got from selling lemonade, bought a bus ticket, went to the East Coast and shipped out in a menial job on a broken down freighter.
RAY: What a story, huh?
RAY: Can you see it now?
TOM: I can see it, man.
RAY: Twenty-five years later, captain of his own vessel, owner of a small freighter fleet and with a major interest in a few oil tankers, he indulged in a nostalgic whim and returned for the first time ever, to his old hometown.
RAY: Imagine his joy, when he discovered his old sweetheart living there, now a widow.
RAY: One thing led to another. The flame reignited, and one day they searched for their tree.
RAY: It was not hard to find. It was near a rock, near a river, and they immediately found it.
TOM: Sure. Yeah.
RAY: Now, here's the puzzler. If the tree had added 35% to its height in the first 15 years of his absence, 10% in the following in the five years and 2.5% in the ensuing eight years, how far up the trunk did they have to look to find the carving with their initials in it.
TOM: Oh, wo-ow-ow-ow! Man. So, the facts are --
RAY: The facts --
TOM: In his freshman year, he draws the heart on the tree.
RAY: Three years later --
TOM: Three years later --
RAY: She dumps him.
TOM: She dumps. He goes away for 25 years, comes back and then, they go back to the tree which has added all these different pieces at 35%, 20%, whatever.
RAY: So, when he returns, they go looking for the heart and I'm stating that the tree added 35% to its height in the first 15 years of his absence, 10% in the following five years and 2 and 1/2% in each of the remaining eight years of his absence.
TOM: OK. These are all percentages of the original height of the tree?
RAY: Of course.
RAY: So, the question very simply is --
TOM: What kind of a tree was it?
RAY: Why did she dump him in the first place? Didn't she know he was going to become a sea captain?
TOM: He wouldn't have --
RAY: If she hadn't dumped him. He had something to prove.
TOM: He would have married her and right after he graduated from high school, he'd have gotten a job at the hardware store and he would have been a boring, like the rest of us, husband.
TOM: Instead of having been a swashbuckling --
TOM: Sea captain.
RAY: I thought this was a good puzzle for all the kids.
TOM: All the kids doing math problems?
RAY: Right, whose brains are a little bit creaky.
TOM: But, you know, and the only ones who would get this right would be the kids in aggie school.
RAY: Aggie school, right.
TOM: All those mathematicians at MIT would get it wrong.
RAY: Right, and the kids in agricultural school would know --
TOM: Agricultural school would go, bingo.
RAY: -- that trees grow from the top. And the heart that was five feet above the ground is still five feet above the ground.
TOM: I was shocked to hear this. How can something grow from the top? There is no roots up there. There ain't no water up there.
RAY: There isn't no roots.
TOM: There isn't no roots up there. I mean, how can that be?
RAY: Well, it's one of those mysteries.
TOM: Huh? It is, huh?
RAY: The tree gets bigger in girth. But if a branch starts off at five feet above the ground, a carving, that's where it stays. Pretty much.
TOM: And it just adds to the top.
RAY: There you go.
TOM: To the top of what?
RAY: To the top of the tree.
TOM: But what if you did this when the tree was one foot tall? And you carved something down at the very bottom that was 2 inches off the ground.
RAY: It would still be there.
TOM: It would still be there.
RAY: Yeah. I don't believe it either.
TOM: That sounds like bull to me.
RAY: Well, like I said, i don't really believe it either but, it's close enough.
TOM: Geez, just take my word for it. Wow.
RAY: And who's going to win our 10th anniversary Car Talk T-shirt this week?TOM: I don't know. The winner is Father, ooh, Father Mark Burlani from the Sacred Heart Church in Park, Kansas.