## Posts tagged ‘question’

### 3 Questions to Determine if You’re a Math Geek

Yesterday morning on Cooley and Kevin, a local sports radio show, the hosts and producer each posited three questions that could be used to determine if someone is **a real man**. (The implication being, if you can’t answer all three, then you ain’t.) I didn’t like that many of the questions focused on sports, but I’m not surprised. I was, however, surprised by some of the non-sports questions. What do you think?

**Thom Loverro (guest host):**

- Who wrote
*The Old Man and The Sea*? - What was the name of the bar owned by Humphrey Bogart in
*Casablanca*? - Name three heavyweight boxing champions.

**Kevin Sheehan (regular host):**

- Who was Clark Kent’s alter ego?
- Name one of the two fighters in the “Thrilla in Manila.”
- Who won the first Super Bowl?

**Greg Hough (producer):**

- Name one James Bond movie and the actor who played James Bond in it.
- Who did Rocky beat to win the title?
- With what team did Brett Favre win a Super Bowl?

During the rounds of trivia, Loverro remarked, “If you can name three heavyweight champs but haven’t seen *Casablanca*, then you’re still in puberty.”

This made me wonder:

What three questions would you ask to determine if someone is

a real woman?

One possible question might be, “Name two of the three actresses who tortured their boss in the movie *Nine to Five*.” Then I remembered that women don’t play the same stupid games that men do. And I realized that strolling too far down that path will lead to hate mail or a slap or both. So, let’s move on.

It also made me wonder if there are three questions you could ask to determine if someone is **a real math geek**. Sure, you could use the Math Purity Test, but that’s 63 questions. A 95% reduction in the number of items would be most welcome.

So, here are my three questions:

- What’s the eighth digit (after the decimal point) of π?
- What’s the punch line to, “Why do programmers confuse Halloween and Christmas?”
- Name seven mathematical puzzles that have entered popular culture.

And my honorable mention:

- What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

One of my initial questions was, “Have you ever told a math joke for your own amusement, knowing full well that your audience either wouldn’t understand it or wouldn’t find it funny?” But I tossed that one, because it’s a yes/no question that was personal, not factual. Eventually, which questions were kept and which were discarded came down to one simple rule: If nothing was lost by replacing a question with, “Are you a math dork?” then it should be rejected.

How’d I do? Opinions welcome. **Submit new or revised questions for determining one’s math geekiness in the comments. **

### Money-Saving Fermi Questions

I was pissed when my cousin wouldn’t give me two $5 bills for a $10 bill.

“Sorry, can’t,” he replied simply.

When asked why the hell not — I knew he had two $5 bills, because he had gotten one from the gas station attendant earlier, and the waitress just brought him another — he explained that all $5 bills are put into savings.

“When I receive a $5 bill, I don’t spend it. It stays in my wallet till I get home, and then it goes right into the piggy bank,” he said. “Every couple months, I take those bills to the bank. It’s an easy way to build up my savings account.”

“So, what, you save like $50 a year this way?”

“It’s a helluva lot more than you’d think,” he replied.

As stupid as this sounds, now **everyone** in my family is doing it. It is a low-impact way to build up your savings account. And it leads to a great Fermi question:

- If all of your $5 bills go into savings, how much will you save in a year?

And for my sons, who don’t often pay for things with bills large enough to require $5 in change, we have the following:

- If all of your nickels go into savings, how much will you save in a year?

**Fermi questions** are questions that require quantitative estimates to arrive at an answer. It often requires making assumptions, because exact data is unavailable. Here are a few others:

- What percent of people who have ever lived are currently alive?
- How many hot dogs are sold at Yankee Stadium during a baseball season?
- How long would it take a snail to travel from Miami to Los Angeles?
- What is the weight of a million dollars? (Assume 1,000,000 one-dollar bills.)

My favorite Fermi question is based on a Dunkin Donuts radio advertisement, in which they boasted:

We reject more than one million pounds of coffee beans a year.

Which has to make you wonder:

- How picky are they, really?

### Questions to Which I’ll Never Answer, “No”

We finished a meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and my wife said, “I’m not going to finish my margarita. Would you like the rest?” My response was:

Now there’s a question to which I’ll never say, “No.”

That got me to thinking… there are quite a few questions to which my answer would never be, “No.” The following is a partial list:

- Do you want to tell me a math joke?
- Paper or plastic?
- Do you want to play Scrabble
^{®}? - Will the Barbershop Harmony Society’s international convention be a harmonic function?
- Would you like to hear a really great math problem?
- Would you like to give a talk to our math club?
- Isn’t 2 to the power of infinity equal to infinity, and therefore isn’t 2
^{ℵ0}= ℵ_{0}? - Do good math jokes exist?
- Do you want to go see the Escher exhibit at the art museum?
- Aren’t almost all numbers very, very, very large? (See Frivolous Theorem of Arithmetic.)
- Do you want to learn a new math game?
- Is there a seed number
*A*for which*A*^{3n}will always be prime, for integer values of*n*? - Is math cool?

And all this talk of yes/no questions reminded me of a joke:

Professor: Are you good at math?

Student: Well, yes and no.

Professor: What do you mean?

Student: Yes, I’m no good at math!

### Stupid Game

“Let’s play a game,” a colleague said, bounding into my office. “I ask you a question, and if you don’t know the answer, you pay me $5. Then you ask me a question, and if I don’t know the answer, I pay you $5.”

“Sounds like a stupid game,” I said.

“Fine,” he huffed, and stormed away.

A half-hour later he was back. “What if you pay me $5, but I pay you $10?” he asked.

“I got work to do. Still not interested.”

He left, but then he came back 15 minutes later. “You pay me $5, and I pay you $50?”

The game may be stupid, but I’m not.

“Okay, fine,” I said.

“What are the Sylow theorems?” he asked.

I’m not a fan of finite group theory, and I don’t know the answer. Nor do I care. I reached into my wallet and handed him $5. “Okay, now my question,” I said. “What has three teeth and runs around in a circle all day?” I asked him.

He gave me a puzzled look, then left for his office. He first checked all of his reference books; nothing. He then tried every conceivable search in Google; nada. In desperation, he queried some of our colleagues; zilch. Frustrated, he returned an hour later, and stuck $50 in my face. I took the money without looking up from my computer and said, “Now leave me alone. I have work to do.”

“I’m not leaving yet!” he insisted. “What’s the answer?”

I reached into my wallet and handed him another $5.

### Questions Needing Answers

Inquiring minds want to know, so here are answers to questions that you’ve surely been pondering.

Q: If one man can wash one stack of dishes in one hour, how many stacks of dishes can four men wash in four hours?

A: None. They’ll all sit down together to watch football.Q: Why don’t members of the Ku Klux Klan study Calculus?

A: Because they don’t like to integrate.Q: What did the circle say to the tangent line?

A: “Stop touching me!”Q: Why did the statistician cross the interstate?

A: To analyze data on the other side of the median.