The Gold Bar Logic Problem
Some people put total trust in their degree from a place of higher learning as proof that they know the answers. This is a sad artifact of formal higher education and is artificially limiting the creativity possible in the world today. Maybe after spending so much time and money taking tests where only one answer was accepted as correct one mistakenly seeks to apply that pattern to the rest of life.
There is often more than one right answer. The following is an example of how that plays out using a logic question commonly used in employment interviews for technical positions.
- You must hire a person to work for exactly 7 days.
- You have a gold bar to be used to pay them.
- You must pay that person the same, equal amount of the gold bar for each of the 7 days of work.
- They must get paid every day and they must end up with all of the gold bar at the end of the week.
- You are permitted to make only two cuts in the gold bar in order to accomplish this.
This is generally accepted by the less creative as the correct and ONLY answer.
Visually divide the bar in seven equal parts and make a cut so you have a part with 1/7th of the total size, a second cut to give you a part with 2/7ths of the total size and the remaining part of 4/7. Now make change.
- Day 1: hand the worker the first part (1/7th of the whole bar).
- Day 2: hand them the second part (2/7th of the whole bar) and take back the first (1/7th of the whole bar).
- Day 3: hand them the first part again (so they now have 3/7ths).
- Day 4: hand them the third part and take back the first and second (so they have 4/7ths).
- Day 5: hand them the first part (so they have 5/7ths).
- Day 6: hand them the second part and take back the first (so they have 6/7ths).
- Day 7: hand them the first part again (they now have all of the bar).
But this is not the only answer to the question as it was stated above.
Make or print the individual letters
G O L D B A R and make two horizontal cuts across all the letters, 1/3 down from the top and 1/3 up from the bottom, to create equal thirds. This provides letters (in three parts per letter) that can be paid out at the rate of one letter each day to the employee. This works well if you own a sign shop and the employee wanted a large sign with the letters
GOLDBAR as payment but the letters were too large to fit in their car without your cuts.
The gold bar could be melted and spooned out to the worker in 7 equal parts. The two mandatory cuts would be of no effect when the gold is in liquid state.
Gold Bar is a pub. The worker's job is to dismantle the pub in 7 days. You make two token cuts in the bar and the worker must take away an equal amount of the pub each day as pay.
The worker is hired to make very exacting cuts using very specialized tools used to cut gold and minimize loss. The worker makes the first 4 cuts while training you how to use the equipment. You make the last two cuts. The training takes 7 days with the worker taking home one part each day.
Bend the gold bar into a snake folded so you can make the two cuts to end up with seven equal pieces. (Submitted by a reader. Thank you.)
How many other solutions to this problem can you imagine? The choices are almost infinite, limited only by how creative you can be.
The purpose of this whole exercise is to demonstrate that sometimes trusting only in your education can actually hurt you. Be very careful how quickly you accept that an answer is the ONLY one possible. Be creative and look at the problem from many different perspectives.
Remember this bit of perspective; by definition the word
degree means a fraction or part of something. If we estimate the complete circle of knowledge is anywhere close to the 360 degrees of the compass and you have perfect memory and hold 100 graduate degrees, you are still less than a third of the way there.
Of course the 360 degree part is absurd because knowledge is not like a circle but more of a straight line like a thermometer with degrees reaching from absolute zero to infinity. There is no way to enumerate the total number of degrees it would take to know everything and it is unlikely any one person would live long enough to find out. This is why we must rely on others and their different perspectives to fill in the gaps for the things we are not able to personally see.First published 2006-12-31. The last major review or update of this information was on 2015-01-19. Your feedback using the form below helps us correct errors and omissions on this page.