Burning Sticks

Question: You have two sticks and matchbox. Each stick takes exactly an hour to burn from one end to the other. The sticks are not identical and do not burn at a constant rate. As a result, two equal lengths of the stick would not necessarily burn in the same amount of time.  How would you measure exactly 45 minutes by burning these sticks?

Answer: This puzzle used to be asked in Wall Street interviews long time ago. It is very rare for this question to be asked now but it is a very good question to help you think a little outside the normal thought process.

The answer is really simple. Since the sticks do not burn at a constant rate, we can not use the length of the stick as any sort of measurement of time. If we light a stick, it takes 60 minutes to burn completely. What if we light the stick from both sides? It will take exactly half the original time, i.e. 30 minutes to burn completely.

0 minutes – Light stick 1 on both sides and stick 2 on one side.
30 minutes – Stick 1 will be burnt out. Light the other end of stick 2.
45 minutes – Stick 2 will be burnt out.

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2 Responses

  1. Ankur Tiwari says:

    Yah,, how is it possible that the stick will burn in exactly 30 mins, if lighted from both the ends? brun rate is not constant.

  2. Satya Saha says:

    How cn u say that if we burn the stick from both sides, it will burn in EXACT 30 min??

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