By Kirsty Tobin
Being the captain of a container ship has a lot of stresses attached to it, not least having to make sure that all the containers are placed correctly and safely. For this, maths comes into play.
Captain Halpin of the SS Fatima is preparing for the container ship’s next cruise. Shortly before the Fatima ships out of Dublin harbour, nine more containers arrive. As a matter of urgency, these containers need to be carried and space must be found.
Perhaps unsurprising for the captain of a container ship – on which precise weight and placement of containers is important – Captain Halpin’s mathematics skills are impressive. But this challenge could be the captain’s undoing.
The containers weigh 1, 2, 3, …, 9 tonnes, and no two containers weigh the same.
As the ship’s departure was imminent, the hold was almost full. Luckily, nine spots remained on the ship.
This space consists of an aisle that can accommodate five containers, with four spots adjacent to the aisle forming two wings, as seen in this diagram.
To ensure that the containers are placed correctly, and don’t interfere with the ship’s passage, the weight of the five containers along the aisle must be equal to the total weight of the three containers that make up each of the two wings.
Is this possible, or will Captain Halpin’s maths skills be defeated at the crunch?
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Source: Silicon Republic