At the end of Probability class, our professor gave us the following puzzle:
There are 100 bags each with 100 coins, but only one of these bags has gold coins in it. The gold coin has weight of 1.01 grams and the other coins has weight of 1 gram. We are given a digital scale, but we can only use it once. How can we identify the bag of gold coins?
After about 5 minutes waiting, our professor gave us the solution (the class had ended and he didn't want to wait any longer):
Give the bags numbers from 0 through 99, then take 0 coins from the bag number 0, 1 coin from the bag number 1, 2 coins from the bag number 2, and so on until we take 99 coins from the bag number 99. Gather all the coins we have taken together and put them on the scale. Denote the weight of these coins as $W$ and the number of bag with gold coins in it as $N$, then we can identify the bag of gold coins using formula $$N=100(W-4950)$$ For instance, if the weight of all coins gathered is $4950.25$ grams, then using the formula above the bag number 25 has the gold coins in it.
My questions are:
- How does the formula work? Where does it come from?
- Do we have other ways to solve this puzzle? If yes, how?
- If the digital scale is replaced by a traditional scale, the scale like symbol of libra or the scale in Shakespeare's drama: The Merchant of Venice (I don't know what is the name in English), then how do we solve this puzzle?