CURIOSITY AND THE JOY OF DISCOVERING HOW SOMETHING WORKS ARE TWO OF A GEEK’S DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS. I can think of very few other things that have brought me as much joy as learning to cook and providing for others. It scratches the same neurons that solving a puzzle or producing a brilliant piece of code does, but tastes better and often takes less time—not to mention that you can do it for other people and make them happy, too!
Speaking of puzzles, here’s how to solve the 12-coin problem I gave in the first chapter. Start with coins 1–4 on the left side and 5–8 on the right side. If the scale registers them as equal, place 9 and 10 on the left and 11 and 1 on the right side. If equal, 12 is the bad one. If not equal, remove 11 and 1 and move 10 to where 11 was. If the scale remains in the same unbalanced position, 9 is the bad one. If the scale is balanced, 11 is the bad one. And if the scale flips to the other side, 10 is the bad one. The trick is to realize that a balance scale can give you not two but three bits of information: <, =, and >, as opposed to = and !=. I’ll leave solving the problem of the starting positions of 1–4 and 5–8 being unequal for you.
I hope that by now the puzzle that is learning to cook has been replaced with the joy of understanding the basic mechanics of the system. True, there are still many more puzzles left to understand, but the core principles of cooking can actually be summed up in a single page (see next page).