H₂Oenometry

You have two glasses each filled with exactly the same amount of liquid. One contains water, the other contains wine. First, take a teaspoon of water from the water glass and pour it into the wine glass. Next stir the wine and water until well mixed. Then take a teaspoon of the water-and-wine mixture and pour it into the glass of water.

The question now is: Is there more wine in the water glass than water in the wine glass, or is there less? (from World’s Most Baffling Puzzles, Charles Barry Townsend, Sterling, New York, 1991)

(Scroll down for answer)


Post-Performative Post-Scriptum

Oenometry means “wine-measurement”, from ancient Greek οἶνος, oinos, “wine”, + μετρία, metria, “measurement”. Its standard pronunciation would be “ee-NOM-ett-ry”, but you could conceivably say “oh-een-NOM-ett-ry” or “oi-NOM-ett-ry”.


Discussion of the answer

The original question is fair but worded to send you astray. By using the words “glass” and “teaspoon”, it creates distinct images in your mind: those of an unvarying teaspoon and of two glasses with identical-but-varying amounts of wine and water in them. So you’re guided away from considering that the contents of the glasses can be measured in teaspoons too. If you think not in teaspoons but in unspecified units (of liquid measure), it’s easier to see the truth.

If the two glasses each contain n units of liquid, by transferring water to the wine you’re adding 1 unit of water to n units of wine.

Therefore the wine glass contains n+1 units of mixed wine-and-water, of which n units are wine and 1 unit is water. Let’s say n+1 = n1.

Consider that 1 unit of that mixture contains n/n1 parts of wine and 1/n1 parts of water: n/n1 + 1/n1 = (n+1)/n1 = n1/n1 = 1 unit.

Now, if one unit of the mixture is transferred to the water glass, you take n/n1 units of wine from n units of wine in the wine glass: n – n/n1 = n-1 + 1/n1. You also take 1/n1 units of water from 1 unit of water in the wine glass: 1 – 1/n1 = (n1-1)/n1 = n/n1. So the wine glass now contains n-1 + 1/n1 units of wine and n/n1 of a unit of water.

When you add that unit to the (n-1) units of water in the water glass, it will contain (n-1) + 1/n1 units of water and n/n1 of unit of wine:

Wine glass: n-1 + 1/n1 units of wine and n/n1 of a unit of water
Water glass: n-1 + 1/n1 units of water and n/n1 of a unit of wine

Therefore, however much water and wine you start with, in the end there will be as much water in the wine glass as there is wine in the water glass. For some concrete examples:

Example #1

1. Start

Water glass: 2 teaspoons of water
Wine glass: 2 teaspoons of wine

2. Transfer water to wine glass and mix:

Water glass: 2 tsp of water – 1 tsp = 1 tsp of water
Wine glass: 2 tsp of wine + 1 tsp of water = 3 tsp of which 2/3 is wine, 1/3 is water

3. Transfer wine-and-water mixture to water glass:

One tsp of wine-and-water mixture = 2/3 tsp of wine + 1/3 tsp of water

Therefore:

Wine glass: 2 tsp of wine – 2/3 tsp of wine = 1 and 1/3 tsp of wine; 1 tsp of water – 1/3 tsp of water = 2/3 tsp of water
Water glass: 1 tsp of water + 1/3 tsp of water = 1 and 1/3 tsp of water; 0 tsp of wine + 2/3 tsp of wine = 2/3 tsp of wine

4. Finish

Wine glass contains: 1 and 1/3 tsp of wine, 2/3 tsp of water
Water glass contains: 1 and 1/3 tsp of water, 2/3 tsp of wine


Example #2

1. Start

Water glass: 10 teaspoons of water
Wine glass: 10 teaspoons of wine

Transfer water to wine glass and mix:

Water glass: 10 tsp of water – 1 tsp = 9 tsp of water
Wine glass: 10 tsp of wine + 1 tsp of water = 11 tsp of liquid of which 10/11 is wine, 1/11 is water

Transfer wine-and-water mixture to water glass:

One tsp of wine-and-water mixture = 10/11 tsp of wine + 1/11 tsp of water

Therefore:

Wine glass: 10 tsp of wine – 10/11 tsp of wine = 9 and 1/11 tsp of wine; 1 tsp of water – 1/11 tsp of water = 10/11 tsp of water
Water glass: 9 tsp of water + 1/11 tsp of water = 9 and 1/11 tsp of water; 0 tsp of wine + 10/11 tsp of wine = 10/11 tsp of wine

4. Finish

Wine glass contains: 9 and 1/11 tsp of wine, 10/11 tsp of water
Water glass contains: 9 and 1/11 tsp of water, 10/11 tsp of wine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.