Saturday, 28 June 2014

Now I know why the West is going under…

This morning, dear reader, young Hannibal and fair Ivana stumbled into my kitchen study in search of sanctuary from parental supervision, and as I carefully put aside the brittle cuniform clay fragments of the Gilgamesh Epos which I was translating for breakfast (they break things, these youngster, they break things of invaluable worth…!), they settled down into the more comfortable chairs at the kitchen table and opened their survival kits.

Both took out their tablets; Hannibal one of chocolate, his sister one of Apple. They opened their priced possessions and went to work. I refrained from looking at the boy (Hannibal chewing is one of the less pleasant sights this universe offers), but I did shoot a passing glance at Ivana’s digital activities. And as these new-fangled gadgets no longer have a top which blocks the outside view (as the old, paleolithical ‘laptop’ at least still had) I could not help but perceive what was on the screen. This what I saw:

Now, ever since I helped my good old buddy Oswald with the preliminary chapters of his Untergang des Abendlandes (God, that man was a bad stylist! He would never have made it to his persisting fame without my skilled editor’s help!) I have been a sucker for numbers and mathematics in general. So you’ll understand, dear reader, that this picture fascinated me immediately.

            ‘Dear girl, what in the world is that?’ I asked the fair Ivana.
            ‘Facebook,’ she answered with the unmistakable tone of ‘mind your own damn business old jerk’.
            ‘No, I mean the numbers… Those numbers there…’ I said, pointing cautiously towards the picture (for all I know these screens may explode on touch…)
            ‘Ah, thát. That’s a stupid riddle some dork posted. Says most people will come up with the wrong answer. But it’s simple comme bonjour… A child could do it. Why: even an utter imbecile can do it! You, Hannibal! Stop smearing chocolate all over them shards and calculate this equation…!’

Hannibal dropped my now totally illegible baked clay Gilgamesh, hopped over to his sister’s spot, and studied the Facebook page for 30 seconds over her shoulder.
            ‘Why, that’s easy!’ he exclaimed triumphantly. ‘The outcome is 111,111!!’
            ‘Oh you stupid nerd!’ the fair Ivana exclaimed. ‘Can’t you do anything right? It’s 63, you moron de la frontera!’

I frowned, dear reader. I frowned like nobody frowned ever since they told old Chris Columbus he had not landed in Japan but on the coast of Columbia…
            ‘Mind if I look at that a moment?’ I asked.
            ‘Be my freaking guest,’ the fair Ivana spoke, and turned her tablet 180º towards me.

Well, what shall I say, dear reader? Two immense Oh Weh Erlebnisse were mine in the course of a mere ten seconds. The first was that neither Hannibal nor Ivana had discovered the correct answer. That was small surprise, since they go to school in Spain. But worse still: beneath the posted picture were 131 answers, and not only did these answers vary incredibly and astonishingly, but out of the 131 replies, the correct solution GOT ONLY 32 VOTES!!! With which it came in third!!!

Would you believe it? Can it really be true…? I now understand, dear reader, why the West is sinking. Why its 2,500 year culture is finally going down the drain, swept into the sewers of oblivion by lousy education, Hollywood morality, the Musical Industrial Complex and the tongue of Miley Cyrus… The word ‘mathematics’ has its origin in the Greek for ‘That which is learned’. And there’s the crux: it is learned no longer! Our digital young are almost totally ignorant of even the barest numbers!

Bitter, bitter tears did I shed over lunch, dear reader, thinking of the Hochkultur we inherited from Imhotep, Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes, Brahmagupta, Khayyam, Galileo, Gauss, Descartes, Schicklgruber, Newton, Leibnitz, Euler, Einstein, Gödel, Escher, Bach and many, many more… And I am almost ready to throw in the towel and give up my belief in Human Kind.

But perhaps you can help me, and save me, and solace a sad old man. Perhaps you, my dearly beloved readers of taste, sophistication, maturity of years and old-time education WILL score better than the Facebookies who performed so dismally this morning?

So here is the challenge I put to you: calculate the outcome of

7 + 7 : 7 + 7 x 7 – 7

and post it below in the comments (preferably under your own honest name). As soon as I have 25 answers, right or wrong, I will tally up the outcome, and publish the correct solution, with its (simple simple simple) explanation.

And, just for your amusement, here is a summary of the answers I found on Facebook:

0 – 1 – 7 – 14 – 47 – 49 – 50 – 54 – 56 - 91 - and last but not least ‘Albania’.

One of which is actually correct. And one of which I found hilarious (guess which?)

Yours, MathemathicAl.


  1. My owl, who did it upside down in 3 seconds, says it's 0.

    I wouldn't know.

    1. Well, hang yourself upside down like a bat, and try again…!

  2. Once I realized that the colon meant divide, the answer is 56.

    7 pus 7 equals 14; 14 divided by 7 equals 2; 2 plus 7 equals 9; 9 multiplied by 7 equals 63 and 63 minus 7 equals 56 .... unless I'm missing something!


  3. I go with David ... it's 56 although I got to 0 at first as well - but wouldn't bet my head on it

  4. Sorry for the delay (we were on our yearly cruise), and sorry for disappointing you all, but the correct answer is 50. In mathematical notation, you see, one must always do the multiplication and the dividing before the subtracting and the adding (unless brackets force you to do otherwise). Thus we calculate 7 x 7 first, and then 7 / 7. The formula then becomes 7 + 1 + 49 - 7, which makes 50.

    To reach 56 instead, one would have to write something awful like
    {(7+7) : 7 + 7} x 7 - 7

    But thanks to you all for a good attempt, and for proving old Alfred right!

  5. Haha!! I've so missed your musings Mr. Mittington! They are a delectable treat indeed. I could use a chocolate tablet myself :)