538 Riddler: Should You Shoot Free Throws Underhand?

Just in time for March Madness, a(nother) basketball-themed Riddler:

Consider the following simplified model of free throws. Imagine the rim to be a circle (which we’ll call C) that has a radius of 1, and is centered at the origin (the point (0,0)). Let V be a random point in the plane, with coordinates X and Y, and where X and Y are independent normal random variables, with means equal to zero and each having equal variance — think of this as the point where your free throw winds up, in the rim’s plane. If V is in the circle, your shot goes in. Finally, suppose that the variance is chosen such that the probability that V is in C is exactly 75 percent (roughly the NBA free-throw average).

But suppose you switch it up, and go granny-style, which in this universe eliminates any possible left-right error in your free throws. What’s the probability you make your shot now? (Put another way, calculate the probability that |Y| < 1.)

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538 Riddler: Can You Solve The Impossible Puzzle?

In this April Fools' Day Riddler we're asked to solve this "impossible" puzzle:

Three very skilled logicians are sitting around a table — Barack, Pete and Susan. Barack says: “I’m thinking of two natural numbers between 1 and 9, inclusive. I’ve written the product of these two numbers on this paper that I’m giving to you, Pete. I’ve written the sum of the two numbers on this paper that I’m giving to you, Susan. Now Pete, looking at your paper, do you know which numbers I’m thinking of?”

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538 Riddler: Will Someone Be Sitting In Your Seat On The Plane?

In this Riddler we are taking flight:

There’s an airplane with 100 seats, and there are 100 ticketed passengers each with an assigned seat. They line up to board in some random order. However, the first person to board is the worst person alive, and just sits in a random seat, without even looking at his boarding pass. Each subsequent passenger sits in his or her own assigned seat if it’s empty, but sits in a random open seat if the assigned seat is occupied. What is the probability that you, the hundredth passenger to board, finds your seat unoccupied?

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538 Riddler: Should You Pay $250 To Play This Casino Game?

This week's Riddler presents us with an interesting casino game:

Suppose a casino invents a new game that you must pay $250 to play. The game works like this: The casino draws random numbers between 0 and 1, from a uniform distribution. It adds them together until their sum is greater than 1, at which time it stops drawing new numbers. You get a payout of $100 each time a new number is drawn.

For example, suppose the casino draws 0.4 and then 0.7. Since the sum is greater than 1, it will stop after these two draws, and you receive $200. If instead it draws 0.2, 0.3, 0.3, and then 0.6, it will stop after the fourth draw and you will receive $400. Given the $250 entrance fee, should you play the game?

Specifically, what is the expected value of your winnings?

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