True Inequalities

October 23, 2014 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

It’s true that Bertrand Russell once stated he could prove anything, given that 1 + 1 = 1. What’s likely not true is that someone challenged Russell to prove that he was the Pope, and he responded by saying, “I am one. The Pope is one. Therefore, the Pope and I are one.”

Whatever. Even apocryphal, it’s a fun story. Who needs truth, anyway?

Ask the poet (Keats) who said that what the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth.

He might also have said that what the hand seizes as a ball must be truth, but he didn’t, because he was a poet and preferred loafing about under trees with a bottle of laudanum and a notebook to playing cricket, but it would have been equally true.

— Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

The following inequalities are — under some circumstances — true.


1 + 1 = 1

See above. (Were you even paying attention?)


1 + 3 = 1

This inequality comes from an athletic shirt that I own. What happens when one large, hungry fish meets three little fish? One large fish leaves with a full belly. (In case you can’t see it in the picture, there are four sets of small fish bones in the big fish’s belly.)

one fish three fish


10 + 10 = 100

Binary much?


1/10 = 20%

Middle school teachers will cringe at seeing this seemingly incorrect fraction-to-percent conversion, but it’s true if you’re looking at a nutrition label. Eat 10g of low-fat Swiss cheese with 1g fat and 9g protein, and 20% of your calories come from fat.


10 + 4 = 2

On a calculator? No. On a clock? Yes. Move 4 hours past 10 o’clock, and it’s 2 o’clock.


1/2 + 1/3 = 2/5

More for middle-school teachers to cringe about. But if you play sports and want to compute your shooting, passing, or batting average, this equation is totally legit.

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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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