http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_programming#Egg_dropping_puzzle is a similar but more ambiguous problem.

—

If we toss a wine glass out of a 3rd floor window it may break, but it may not if tossed from a 2nd floor window.

Q: with exactly two wine glasses taken from a (Japanese:) production line, you want to identify starting at exactly which level of a 11-floor tower this brand of glass will break if tossed out of the window. Equivalently, determine the highest safe floor. Optimization goal — minimize worst-case cost. **Top floor is known to break**, so answer might be 1st floor, 2nd floor,… or top floor — 11 possible answers, but 10 floors to test.

Needless to say, if the glass breaks at 6th floor, it will surely break at a higher level.

—- Analysis —-

With just a single glass, you have no strategy. You have to try from 1st floor up. If your classmate starts on 2nd floor and breaks her only glass there, she is disqualified because with no more glass to use, it’s now impossible to know whether it would survive1st floor.

I feel this is NOT a probability problem, so each toss is bound to pass or fail with 100% certainty but we just don’t know it.

We don’t want to toss first glass @2nd, @4th, @6th… because too many first-glass tests. Neither do we want to toss first glass @5th because if broken, then 2nd glass must try @1@2@3@4. Therefore first glass toss should be somewhere between ( @2, @5 ) exclusive.

—-%% solution, with heavy use of symbols —–

I feel this problem is tractable by dynamic programming. Let

* L denote the highest _safe__ floor known so far, and

* U denote the lowest _unsafe_ floor known so far. U is initially at top floor, and L is initially 0, not 1

* u denote U-1

u >= L is an invariant. The Upper and Lower bounds. (u-L) is the maximum number of floors to test. When we get u-L = 0 and final Answer is the current value of U.

Here’s a typical example

6 —- U known unsafe

5 —- u, so 3 floors to test (u-L)

4

3

2 —- L known safe

z8 denotes the worst case # tests required to locate the Answer with both glasses when u-L = 8 i.e. 8 floors to test. Could be z(L=0, u=8) or z(L=1, u=9). Same thing.

For example, z(1,3) means worst case # tests when 1st and 4th storeys need no testing. Note z(1,3) == z(2,4) == z2

z1 = 1 i.e. one toss needed

z2 = 2

z3 = 2 // B! C || BA. The untested floors are named (upward) ABCDEFG (if 7 floors to try), and trailing ! means broken.

z4 = 3 // B! CD || BA

z5 = 3 // C! +2 || C then z2 // if C broken, then must test last glass at D and E

z6 = 3 // C! +2 || C z3 // ABCDEF

z7 = 4 // (D! + 3 || D z3) or (C! + 2 || C z4)

z8 = 4 // (D! + 3||D z4) or the smarter (C! + 2||C z5)

z9 = 4 // (D! + 3||D z5) or (C! + 2 || C z6)

z10 = 4 // (D!+3||D z6). Can’t use (C! + 2 || C z7) — for a 11-storey tower, we need 4 tosses.

I think there are cleverer implementations. This is not brute force. It builds up useful results with lower z() values and use them to work out higher z() values — dynamic programming.

This solution not only finds where to start the test and the worst-case # tests. It also works out the exact decision tree.