Problem: You have 6 coins weighing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 grams that look the same, except for their labels. The number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) on the top of each coin should correspond to its weight. How can you determine whether all the numbers are correct, using the balance scale only twice?
Disclaimer: It is a difficult problem
Hint: (Highlight from * to * to see the hint) *
Some people post wrong solutions and believe they have solved it. For example, they would start by putting the coins labeled 1 and 2 on the left cup of the scale and 3 on the right cup. If these coins balanced, the person assumes that the coins on the left weighed 1 and 2 grams and that the coin on the right weighed 3 grams. But they’d get the same result if they had 1 and 4 on the left, for example, and 5 on the right.
I propose the following sequence a(n). Suppose we have a set of n coins of different weights weighing exactly an integer number of grams from 1 to n. The coins are labeled from 1 to n. The sequence a(n) is the minimum number of weighings we need on a balance scale to confirm that the labels are correct. The original Oleg Kryzhanovsky’s problem asks to prove that a(6)=2. It is easy to see that a(1)=0, a(2)=1, a(3)=2. Its fun proving that a(4) = a(5) =2.*