The Paradox of the Muddy Children

Three children return home after playing outside, and their father tells them that at least one of them has a muddy face. He repeats the phrase “Step forward if you have a muddy face” until all and only the children with muddy faces have stepped forward.

If there’s only one child with a muddy face, then she’ll step forward immediately — she can see that no other children have muddy faces, so her father must be talking about her. Each of the other children will see her muddy face and stand fast, since they have no way of knowing whether their own faces are muddy.

If there are two children with muddy faces, then no one will step forward after the first request, since each might think the father is addressing the other one. But when no one steps forward after the first request, each will realize that there must be two children with muddy faces, and that she herself must be one of them. So both will step forward after the second request, and the rest will stand fast.

A pattern emerges: If there are n children with muddy faces, then n will step forward after the nth request.

But now imagine a scenario in which more than one of the children has a muddy face, but the father does not tell them that at least one of them has a muddy face. Now no one steps forward after the first request, for the same reason as before. But no one steps forward at the second request either, because the fact that no one stepped forward after the first request no longer means that there is more than one child with a muddy face.

This is perplexing. In the second scenario all the children can see that at least one of them has a muddy face, so it seems needless for the father to tell them so. But without his statement the argument never gets going; despite his repeated requests, no child will ever step forward. What’s missing?

(From Michael Clark, Paradoxes From A to Z, 2007.)

Punctual

Ernest Hemingway published this “blank verse” in his high school literary magazine in 1916:

hemingway blank verse

Get it? David Morice followed up with this “punctuation poem” in Word Ways in February 2012:

% , & —
+ . ? /
” :
% ;
+ $ [ \

It’s a limerick:

Percent comma ampersand dash
Plus period question mark slash
Quotation mark colon
Percent semicolon
Plus dollar sign bracket backslash

(Thanks, Volodymyr.)

Threewise

Draw an arbitrary triangle and build an equilateral triangle on each of its sides, as shown.

Now show that AP = BQ = CR.

Click for solution …

Isomorses

LEG and RUN share the same “bit” pattern in Morse code:

·-·· · --·

·-· ··- -·

So do EARN and URN (which are also homophones):

· ·- ·-· -·

··- ·-· -·

(Discovered by Philip Cohen.)

UPDATE: Reader Dave Lawrence wrote a script to find more of these. He found 2,900, including these highlights:

TEMPT YAK
ATTIC JINN
SUAVE SINNER

KILL TRUSTEE
NIACIN BANNER
CONVEX COBALT

DRAIN NINETEEN
WOMEN JOKE
OMELETS TODDLE

ENZYME APRON
GOAT MEOW
EMINENT PAINT

ABSINTHE PHIALS
NIPPLE BANANAS
LEFTIE LEFTS

CONTENT COCK
DOTTY TUMMY
PAPER WINGER

EERIEST VISIT
GENUINE GAVEL
WETTEST ANGST

SPEED SATIRE
REUNITE LEPER
COW COAT

CINDER CURVE
FUNK ELEMENT
THOSE BAGS

DELIVER BLISTER
CAUSES CRASH
DEFENSIVE THRASHER

SKIN STAIN
CHIMNEY CHUTNEY
SOME VOTE

PESKIER WHALER
RANDY REMEDY
ESTEEMED SAUCE

MANGO TYPO
TEXTUAL CANARD
INANE FEZ

REEXAMINE ASTEROID
DEFILE BIBLE
MILKMEN MIRROR

BEAT THAT
NEAREST DENTIST
GRANDER GREMLIN

TIGER TUNER
SUCH HANDS
INDEXED URINAL

TICKLED NECTARINE
JACK ATTACK
GREENISH GLASSES

BEBOP DUSTMAN
PATIENCE WIZARD
DRAMA NINJA

BAROQUE BAROMETER
NEURON BARON
NEUTRON BACON

DISK THEFT
PAMPAS PEOPLE
TROIKA COURT

COLLIE TROLLS
MINISCULE MINISKIRTS
MATTED GORE

INSULIN INHALER
MEETING GETUP
SELF SERVE

KITTEN CAKE
TRUTH CUBE
CHAP TENSING

PELICAN ABDICATE
KALE TARTS
TROUSER COUSIN

VAST STREET
DISTORTED DIVORCE
BRUNETTE DELEGATE

F*CKED ELEMENTAL
MAIZE GNATS
SPOUSE SWATTERS

FIRMS INVADE
CHIEF KISSER
SWITCH SPACES

THREE NESTS
INVERTING FIRETRAP
MOUSE OTTERS

ANALYZE PARROTS
AIMLESS RETCHES
RAWHIDE RAPISTS

MINIMAL GLANCE
PRIESTS PRESIDE
INBRED INTESTINE

GUFFAW MILDLY
MIDDAY GRAVY
WONDER AMOEBAE

PALE AXLE
WHISKEY EMISSARY
CAGED CAMEL

MINTIER GENDER
QUEER MAIDEN
ASTERISK AIRLIFT

SACRED SEQUEL
ESPIED SEABED
MAIM GNAT

TURNIP TURBAN
NIGHTIE NIGHTS

“Blank Verse”

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Szinyei_Merse,_P%C3%A1l_-_Poppies_in_the_Field_(1902).jpg

John asked Clara
To take
A walk with him
And pick flowers.
But Clara’s brother
Came along
And so
They picked flowers.

North Carolina Boll Weevil, 1922

DO IT NOW

ArnoldC, a language devised by Finnish computer programmer Lauri Hartikka, assigns programming functions to catch phrases from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Some keywords:

False: I LIED

True: NO PROBLEMO

If: BECAUSE I’M GOING TO SAY PLEASE

Else: BULLSHIT

EndIf: YOU HAVE NO RESPECT FOR LOGIC

While: STICK AROUND

EndWhile: CHILL

MultiplicationOperator: YOU’RE FIRED

DivisionOperator: HE HAD TO SPLIT

EqualTo: YOU ARE NOT YOU YOU ARE ME

GreaterThan: LET OFF SOME STEAM BENNET

Or: CONSIDER THAT A DIVORCE

And: KNOCK KNOCK

DeclareMethod: LISTEN TO ME VERY CAREFULLY

MethodArguments: I NEED YOUR CLOTHES YOUR BOOTS AND YOUR MOTORCYCLE

Return: I’LL BE BACK

EndMethodDeclaration: HASTA LA VISTA, BABY

AssignVariableFromMethodCall: GET YOUR ASS TO MARS

ReadInteger: I WANT TO ASK YOU A BUNCH OF QUESTIONS AND I WANT TO HAVE THEM ANSWERED IMMEDIATELY

AssignVariable: GET TO THE CHOPPER

SetValue: HERE IS MY INVITATION

EndAssignVariable: ENOUGH TALK

ParseError: WHAT THE FUCK DID I DO WRONG

This program prints the string “hello world”:

IT'S SHOWTIME
TALK TO THE HAND "hello world"
YOU HAVE BEEN TERMINATED

More on GitHub.

Unquote

“There is a danger in being persuaded before one understands.” — Thomas Wilson

“Very Sensible”

It was well remarked by an intelligent old farmer, ‘I would rather be taxed for the education of the boy, than the ignorance of the man. For one or the other I am compelled to pay.’

Southern Cultivator, January 1848

Home Cooking

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_USA_showing_unlabeled_state_boundaries.png

The map of the continental United States contains an elf making chicken.

He’s known as Mimal, after the states that make him up: Minnesota (hat), Iowa (head), Missouri (shirt), Arkansas (pants), and Louisiana (boots).

Fittingly, the chicken is Kentucky and the tin pan is Tennessee.

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marooned_(close_up).jpg

naufrague
n. a shipwrecked person

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