My pills, which I buy 31 at a time, come in an airtight canister. Last month (December), I opened the canister 31 times, removing (and swallowing) one pill every day. The problem is that the last pill I took on December 31 was exposed to the air 31 times, which diminishes its potency. The December 1 pill was only exposed to air once. On average, the pills that I took were exposed to the air 16 times, calculated as (1 + 31)/2.
But I can do better in January, because now I have an empty canister!
On January 1, I could swallow one pill and transfer 15 to the empty canister. If I make no more transfers, the remaining 30 pills will be exposed an additional 8 times on average, i.e (15+1)/2, in addition to the once that they have already been exposed. Average time exposed for all 31 pills is (1 + 30*(8+1))/31 = 271/31 = 8.742. A significant improvement from 16! I feel healthier already!
I think that I can do better if I transfer pills between my two canisters more frequently. What is the best I can do? How?
(In reply to Triangular numbers and Pascal's Triangle (spoiler)
by Steve Herman)
An amazing problem on all fronts. The connection to triangular numbers was apparent to me. The connection to Pascal's triangle is a bigger surprise.
I haven't had a chance to investigate the 3 container version. I may devote some time to it this weekend.
Posted by Jer
on 2015-11-26 22:26:07