George Gamow and Marvin Stern occupied offices on the second and sixth floors of a seven-story building, and noted that when either took the elevator to the other's floor, it was going the wrong way. It's apparent why: there were ten segments of the elevator's 12-segment cycle (6 going up and 6 going down in a continuous cycle) where the first elevator arrival would be going the wrong way and only two segments where it would be going the desired direction the next time it passed the boarding floor.

But what if a second elevator were placed in the building. What would the probability be that the next elevator to arrive would be going the wrong way? Ignore stops along the way, as they do not affect the distance that need be traveled and probably have more of them for longer trips. The two elevators move independently of each other.

Gamow himself did not get the correct answer for the two-elevator case, but the correct answer was found by Donald Knuth.