Wes Carroll's Puzzler
11: The loopiest puzzler [***]
May 22, 2016
I have four lengths of rope. I hold them so that you can see all eight ends, but you can’t tell which end connects to which other end. You pick a pair of ends, and I tie them together. We repeat -- you pick, I tie -- until we run out of ends.
What’s the expected value of the number of loops you’ll have at the end? Or, in plain English, if we play this game a zillion times, what’s the average number of loops I’ll get per game? Note: the correct answer is not a whole number.