October 02, 2003


The French have discovered a way to make mathematics exciting and relevant:

A French mathematics teacher is under investigation by education officials for asking students to solve a set of equations based on the death of actress Marie Trintignant after a domestic drama that shocked France.

This pop-culture math method could really catch on. Here’s a quick test:

One: Mary is 20 metres away. Sound travels at 331.45 metres per second. How long will it be before she hears General Wesley Clark’s pitiful cry for help?

Two: Three Dixie Chicks with a total surface area of 6.4 square metres must be photoshopped down by 30% before they will fit on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. It takes a Time Warner artist 20 minutes (at $150 per hour) to remove each 0.2 sq.m. How much does he earn for the completed job?

Three: Kofi Annan is permitted to say that he is deeply concerned only 250 times each year. Assuming that next year he announces his deep concern once every day from January 1, what is the date after which he can no longer use the phrase?

Four: A plate of ham sandwiches is located in the sole 40 degree corner of an Isosceles triangle. Assistants to Phillip Adams and Michael Moore have been ordered to retrieve the sandwiches and are advancing on them at equal speeds from the other two corners. There are no pickles. Which hungry millionaire’s representative reaches them first?

Five: Eighteen UN personnel (from a total of 600) flee Iraq every day while four US showbiz types arrive at the same rate. How long will it take before entertainers outnumber wusses?

Six: Two adult Afghans land seven punches each on Robert Fisk’s head before Robert realises he is under threat. If we estimate children’s punches at one-quarter of the power of a standard adult Afghan punch, how many times must the children hit Robert before he understands?

Seven: For every three dissidents he executes, Saddam Hussein eats five grams of chocolate from his 480 gram Quality Street assortment assortment. How many dissidents will die before George Galloway needs to go gift-shopping again?

Eight: What is the minimum number of words Maureen Dowd must remove from the following paragraph to convert its message from positive to negative? “We stand with the Iraqi people as they assume more of their own defence and move towards self-government. These aren't easy tasks, but they are essential tasks. We will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror.”

Please write your answers in the comments ... because I have no idea how to work them out myself.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 2, 2003 02:27 AM

C'mon Tim, number Six is a trick question. Fisk will NEVER understand.

Nice try.

Posted by: Andrew X at October 2, 2003 at 02:46 AM

“We...assume...their...defence and...self-government...aren't...essential.... We...have begun...this...war...”

Posted by: David Skurnick at October 2, 2003 at 02:49 AM

I'm not doing maths at 2 in the morning either.

Posted by: Scott Wickstein at October 2, 2003 at 02:54 AM

I hope you brought enough rum for the whole class, Scott Wickstein.

Posted by: tim at October 2, 2003 at 03:06 AM

The teacher would have much more to work with had she used the 15,000 or more deaths in August. There are just tons of math problems in that one. It's also as tasteful as what she did use.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at October 2, 2003 at 03:09 AM

Tim hosts 9 members of the Quadrant Cabal at his table for a LONG LUNCH. 33% like beer ($5 Per Glass). and the remainder like EXPENSIVE WINE ($50 per glass).

Assuming the lunch goes for 3 hours, and none of the guests wish to be arrested for driving their Bentleys whilst over the limit, how many Vietnamese shoe-making children must Tim exploit to have enough money to afford their drinks?

Posted by: Yobbo at October 2, 2003 at 03:17 AM

1. 0.06 seconds

2. $480

3. The last date he can say it is Sep. 6, 2004

4. Michael Moore will alter history to make it so that he's the winner. I'm not sure about Philip Adams's abilities in this regard.

5. Day 29 (96 UN personnel to 116 showbiz types)

6. Trick question. He'd blame it on the Americans.

7. 288

8. Please refer to David Skurnick's post for the answer.

Posted by: david at October 2, 2003 at 03:23 AM

In the absence of any mathematical ability on my part to dispute those answers, I award David 12 out of 7! Well done.

Posted by: tim at October 2, 2003 at 03:37 AM

Assuming that one soldier can search an area of x hectares for weapons of mass destruction per day, how long would it take Y soldiers to search a country the size of France?

Posted by: dsquared at October 2, 2003 at 03:51 AM

Number three is a trick question too. 2004 is a leap year.

Posted by: Kevin Smith at October 2, 2003 at 03:51 AM

Actually, it's still right. I cheated and used Excel, which remembers leap years even when I don't.

Posted by: david at October 2, 2003 at 04:01 AM

Number four is also a trick question. Micheal Moore has already eaten the ham sandwiches by the time the assistants arrive.

Posted by: Jonny at October 2, 2003 at 04:24 AM

Number four is a trick question. Hutts don't eat nothin' that's dead.

Posted by: S Whiplash at October 2, 2003 at 04:30 AM

Question number 2 is a trick, too. Surely not all Dixie Chicks are created equal? The fat one certainly needed more Photoshopping than the cross-eyed one or the other one. The artist would have been within his rights to demand extra pay for such a horrible job.

Posted by: timks at October 2, 2003 at 05:39 AM

All answers are the same: 42

Posted by: mojo at October 2, 2003 at 05:47 AM

42, the meaning of life.

Posted by: Jonny at October 2, 2003 at 06:38 AM

The gauntlet has been thrown:

#8: "We stand with...Iraqi...terror."

Posted by: timks at October 2, 2003 at 08:11 AM

4. mike moore's factotums to beat phildo's to the ham sambos. moore then chokes on the ham sangers while in drag in a bizarre attempt to emulate mama cass.

Posted by: roscoe p coltrane at October 2, 2003 at 09:04 AM

Great math quiz. Reminds me of the widely used City of Los
Angeles High School Math Proficiency Exam.

Posted by: Alex Robson at October 2, 2003 at 09:13 AM

It seems the answer to dsquare's teaser is forever. Since, the assumption is, there is at least one WMD in France,which, therefore, can be hidden anywhere,anyway.Heck, Chirac could be sitting on it, as in, it's under his lounge chair.How, long will it take a U.S. soldier to recieve permission to inspect Chirac's furniture, and he is sitting on the secret WMD dump.This is physics problem, resting on the inertia of French govt. and Chirac's gravity which needs to be calculated from its weight upon the neck of the French: thus, requires estimate of Lbs per square inch over the population, French necks, soon to be headless, madam guillotine revified, metaphrically. Headlessness affects calculations. in a new for.

Posted by: d at October 2, 2003 at 09:32 AM

Here's another question:

50,000 Aussie sheep go on a holiday cruise to the Persian Gulf. Evil towelheads prevent them from landing for sightseeing in picturesque Saudi Arabia. Interfering busybodies in Oz try to force them to come home. Some sheep who didn't pack blockout, develop skin cancers and die. Some get seasick and want to leave the ship. How many will jump ship and seek asylum in Iraq? How many will make it through the shark-infested waters of the Gulf? How many will return to Australia to be slaughtered to satisfy the animal liberationists?

Posted by: Freddyboy at October 2, 2003 at 11:17 AM

Question 1: This is a trick question as they were seated in an aeroplane. We are not told whether the aircraft was on the ground or flying. As everybody knows the speed of sound is dependent upon temperature, pressure, humidity, and CO2 concentration.

Question 2: I'll pay him a lot more if he deletes them entirely.

Question 3: If nobody is listening, is he actually heard?

Question 4: The question is based on a false premise as there are clearly at least two pickles.

Question 5: It depends on how many more of them are bombed.

Question 6: The data given is based on the number of adult punches he receives before he realises a threat. Andrew X above correctly points out that this is a vastly different proposition to making Fisk UNDERSTAND. He may not however be correct in his assertion that Fisk will never understand. It is possible that one of the kids could borrow the Imperial Cluebat.

Question 7: Let's just hope that George goes shopping again real soon and makes a personal delivery to his master in Iraq. There will be plenty of others wanting to make deliveries to Saddam at the same time.

Question 8: We aren't essential.

Posted by: Michael Gill at October 2, 2003 at 11:33 AM

To answer Freddyboy's three part question:

a) zero
b) zero
c) zero

The 101st Airborne will airlift a giant barbecue to the Gulf and...the rest is (burp)_ culinary history.

Posted by: Ken Summers at October 2, 2003 at 01:18 PM

Extension to question 3: What is the probability that Kofi Annan will condemn future terrorist attacks "in the strongest possible terms" whilst being "deeply concerned" about US decisiveness?

Posted by: Cruddrick at October 2, 2003 at 02:02 PM

Ken, you've added a fourth part to the question: how many lamb chops will our boys enjoy at the BBQ? (Students: please allow for rejects caused by scabby-mouth, foot-and-mouth, skin cancers etc).

Posted by: Freddyboy at October 2, 2003 at 02:05 PM

Great idea Ken. The 101st could use the sheep as moving targets, thus eliminating the need to hone their skills by firing on innocent Iraqis. Splattering the sheep wouldn't be as humane as slitting their throats and letting them bleed to death but what the hell, the boys' death dealing skills would be sharpened, they'd be entertained and well fed.

Freddyboy, unless you're a Pal-eating pensioner, why would you eat sheep mouths, feet or skin?

Posted by: ZsaZsa at October 2, 2003 at 02:49 PM

Zsa zsa, I was considering the sensitivities of our boys; but you're right, they'll probably throw the reject stuff to the starving locals. After all, Arabs prize sheeps' eyes as delicacies, so they'll probably go for the scabby mouths, rotten feet and all. Losers can't be choosers, after all!

Posted by: Freddyboy at October 2, 2003 at 05:08 PM

"(The) Iraqi people ... we will finish."

Posted by: Dave F at October 2, 2003 at 07:27 PM

Er, what was the question again?

Posted by: Dave F at October 2, 2003 at 07:30 PM

“We stand with the Iraqi people as they...move towards ...terror.”

Posted by: Brian at October 3, 2003 at 12:05 AM

Oh, the sheepanity, the sheepanity.Not since the Hindenburg disaster have I witnessed anything so horrible as 50,000 woolly sheep holed up on a ship straight from hell, only to be sent to a quagmire of feasting in restaurants.

Mr.and Mrs. fetlock,`Waiter, we'll be served up in red wine sauce, please. Charge as at a few smackers serve. And, we'd like the comapny of some veges too.'

Posted by: d at October 3, 2003 at 09:48 AM

…the Iraqi people…aren’t easy tasks, but they…will finish what we have begun and…will win this essential victory in the war on terror.

Posted by: TimD at October 3, 2003 at 12:32 PM

Isn't #5 a trick question since most entertainers ARE wusses.

Posted by: Jericho at October 3, 2003 at 04:19 PM

"We stand with...more...terror.”

Posted by: Sean T. Collins at October 4, 2003 at 06:53 AM