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Matching Matchbox Muse (Posted on 2010-03-30) Difficulty: 3 of 5
Professor X smokes a pipe. He carries two identical matchboxes, originally containing 20 matches each. When he lights his pipe, he chooses a matchbox at random and lights his pipe with one match and discards the used match.

There will eventually arise an occasion when he first selects a matchbox with only one match in it. At this point, what is the expected number of matches in the other box?

No Solution Yet Submitted by K Sengupta    
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re(5): Corrected Solution after Charlie's comments | Comment 14 of 15 |

Sorry, but you have misunderstood the statement of the problem- clearly, as you pointed out, there are trials in which a box containing one match is not selected first by the professor, who instead may choose for say 3 consecutive rounds the other box. But all those cases are not to be counted because the wording of the problem says :

"There will eventually arise an occasion when he first selects a matchbox with only one match in it. At this point, what is the expected number of matches in the other box? "

meaning that our problem begins if and when the above eventuality has happened, and we are to compute the conditional probability, given the situation that the professor has first chosen the box with the single match 


  Posted by Dan Rosen on 2010-07-20 14:37:31
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