# Why mathematicians are no fun at parties

• Apparently, way back in the 60s, when Poland was still on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall, we had a TV show called "20 Questions". It was, basically, 20 Questions (duh) - the host thought of a word (which the audience knew), and the teams asked up to 20 yes/no questions to guess what it is.

The teams changed every time, but it was always mathematicians vs journalists vs some random people.

It was quite popular, but was quickly taken off the air when the mathematicians' team brought in the 12-volume encyclopaedia and started asking "Is the word before "manifold" in this?" "Is the word before "Uppsala" in this?" - basically, doing binary search on the thing. I'm not sure whether they've learned most of the encyclopaedia by heart or were allowed to bring it to the studio, but they managed to break the game so badly it lost the point.

•  Well, if your game is stupid, it deserves to be broken, right?

• @Maciejasjmj said:

Apparently, way back in the 60s, when Poland was still on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall...

Thank God Poland moved a few hundred miles west..

@Maciejasjmj said:

It was quite popular, but was quickly taken off the air when the mathematicians' team brought in the 12-volume encyclopaedia and started asking "Is the word before "manifold" in this?" "Is the word before "Uppsala" in this?" - basically, doing binary search on the thing. I'm not sure whether they've learned most of the encyclopaedia by heart or were allowed to bring it to the studio, but they managed to break the game so badly it lost the point.

This is why your people invented the gulag.

• This actually sounds like a really good way to get back at whoever is making you play 20 questions, I need to remember it.

• Why would you need an encylopedia? You can just do a binary search directly on the letters in the word.

So you start with "Is the first letter before or equal to 'N'?", then go to "Is the first letter before or equal to 'G' or 'T'? After 20 questions, you should have the first 5 letters pinned down. If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.

• @Snooder said:

Why would you need an encylopedia? You can just do a binary search directly on the letters in the word.

This is how people end up getting a cocktail toothpick to the eye..

@Snooder said:

If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.

DISIN-- Go.

• @morbiuswilters said:

@Snooder said:
If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.

DISIN-- Go.

YOU DISIN' MAH Go?

• @Ben L. said:

@morbiuswilters said:
@Snooder said:
If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.
DISIN-- Go.
YOU DISIN' MAH Go?
Yes.

• @HardwareGeek said:

@Ben L. said:
@morbiuswilters said:
@Snooder said:
If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.
DISIN-- Go.
YOU DISIN' MAH Go?
Yes.

Ok then.

Glad we got that cleared up.

• @HardwareGeek said:

@Ben L. said:
@morbiuswilters said:
@Snooder said:
If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.
DISIN-- Go.
YOU DISIN' MAH Go?
Yes.
I think Go is the best Katie Holmes movie.

• That reminds me of a fun way of catching somebody who claims to never lie. Tell them if the first digit of their PIN is 0 to give no response. If they give a response, repeat for 1. In a maximum of 40 questions you can get their PIN. Or, more likely, they lie to you.

Also works for "do you have something to hide?".

I don't go to many parties anymore.

• @morbiuswilters said:

@Snooder said:
Why would you need an encylopedia? You can just do a binary search directly on the letters in the word.

This is how people end up getting a cocktail toothpick to the eye..

@Snooder said:

If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.

DISIN-- Go.

Or this one: INTER

I give you a 1 in 558 probability of getting it right on the first guess.

•  if you have "inte" then you already have a decent chance that itstarts with inter so you can save a few questions there

• You are not very inte-lligent, are you?

Anyway, the method described for guessing letters is pointless. The one of the mathematicians was optimal, but even without a dictionary, there are better, information theory based ways. Indeed, assuming an 'r' when you have "INTE" is a sure bet, (558 in 635). But it won't make the game any more interesting.

• @Shoreline said:

That reminds me of a fun way of catching somebody who claims to never lie. Tell them if the first digit of their PIN is 0 to give no response. If they give a response, repeat for 1. In a maximum of 40 questions you can get their PIN. Or, more likely, they lie to you.

Why on earth should they lie to you? Simply don't answer and they're done playing this particularly stupid game.

• @Rhywden said:

Why on earth should they lie to you? Simply don't answer and they're done playing this particularly stupid game.

Shh, they're making it easier to separate the autists from the pedants on this board.

• @TGV said:

You are not very inte-lligent, are you?

Anyway, the method described for guessing letters is pointless. The one of the mathematicians was optimal, but even without a dictionary, there are better, information theory based ways. Indeed, assuming an 'r' when you have "INTE" is a sure bet, (558 in 635). But it won't make the game any more interesting.

Agreed. I started conceiving of a system based on information theory that asked questions pertaining to linguistic construction of the word, the dissonance between connotative and denotative definitions, how abstract the word is, etc. But then I realized that this was the saddest thing I had ever done in my life.

• @Shoreline said:

That reminds me of a fun way of catching somebody who claims to never lie. Tell them if the first digit of their PIN is 0 to give no response. If they give a response, repeat for 1. In a maximum of 40 questions you can get their PIN. Or, more likely, they lie to you.

Also works for "do you have something to hide?".

I don't go to many parties anymore.

"I don't lie" and "I always answer all questions" are not the same thing, or even remotely connected.

• I guess the producers weren't very imaginative. The proper response is to pick a word that isn't in the encyclopedia at all. No, it isn't before "mainfold." It also ins't after "manifold", but they won't ask that, they'll just assume it is. 100% guarantee that anyone who tries this kind of foolishness will lose the second time, and lost the first time if the producers know what encylopedia they're using in advance.

Of course, in the 60s, programs that were set up specifically to humiliate contestents were less popular, though there were the various Chuck Barris productions.

• @morbiuswilters said:

@Snooder said:
If you can't guess a word from the first 5 letters, you suck.

DISIN-- Go.

--TERY

• There was, and perhaps it is still running a program in my country that pitted three PHDs and they had to guess something (a historical fact or figure, etc) with a single or no clue, they could keep asking anything in yes/no format as long as the response was yes, if not then the counter was reduced and the next person would continue. I think the counter started at 10 and was pooled so it was more of a team effort and there was no actual prize if they won. There were three things they had to guess and one was suggested by the public, in the case that they failed to guess what it was then the person that suggested the item would get a prize (not cash though) but that didn't happen often. Really insteresting sometimes.

• @bstorer said:

I started conceiving of a system based on information theory that asked questions pertaining to linguistic construction of the word, the dissonance between connotative and denotative definitions, how abstract the word is, etc. But then I realized that this was the saddest thing I had ever done in my life.
It's what some people do for a PhD...

• @TGV said:

@bstorer said:

I started conceiving of a system based on information theory that asked questions pertaining to linguistic construction of the word, the dissonance between connotative and denotative definitions, how abstract the word is, etc. But then I realized that this was the saddest thing I had ever done in my life.
It's what some people do for a PhD...

Earning a PhD in linguistics doesn't sound like a very exciting party game.

• @bstorer said:

But then I realized that this was the saddest thing I had ever done in my life.

Yes! I'm finally moving up the list!

• @Rhywden said:

@Shoreline said:

That reminds me of a fun way of catching somebody who claims to never lie. Tell them if the first digit of their PIN is 0 to give no response. If they give a response, repeat for 1. In a maximum of 40 questions you can get their PIN. Or, more likely, they lie to you.

Why on earth should they lie to you? Simply don't answer and they're done playing this particularly stupid game.

Exactly. This is why I now bring my own waterboarding equipment to parties.

• @HardwareGeek said:

@TGV said:

@bstorer said:

I started conceiving of a system based on information theory that asked questions pertaining to linguistic construction of the word, the dissonance between connotative and denotative definitions, how abstract the word is, etc. But then I realized that this was the saddest thing I had ever done in my life.
It's what some people do for a PhD...

Earning a PhD in linguistics doesn't sound like a very exciting party game.

starts to scratch HardwareGeek's name off the invite list

Wait, what about earning a PhD in animal husbandry?

• @morbiuswilters said:

@HardwareGeek said:
@TGV said:

@bstorer said:

I started conceiving of a system based on information theory that asked questions pertaining to linguistic construction of the word, the dissonance between connotative and denotative definitions, how abstract the word is, etc. But then I realized that this was the saddest thing I had ever done in my life.
It's what some people do for a PhD...

Earning a PhD in linguistics doesn't sound like a very exciting party game.

starts to scratch HardwareGeek's name off the invite list

Wait, what about earning a PhD in animal husbandry?

No thanks. I'm not really into the furry thing.

• @HardwareGeek said:

@morbiuswilters said:
@HardwareGeek said:
@TGV said:

@bstorer said:

I started conceiving of a system based on information theory that asked questions pertaining to linguistic construction of the word, the dissonance between connotative and denotative definitions, how abstract the word is, etc. But then I realized that this was the saddest thing I had ever done in my life.
It's what some people do for a PhD...

Earning a PhD in linguistics doesn't sound like a very exciting party game.

starts to scratch HardwareGeek's name off the invite list

Wait, what about earning a PhD in animal husbandry?

No thanks. I'm not really into the furry thing.

That reminds me, I haven't seen old breadnose in a while.

• @joe.edwards said:

That reminds me, I haven't seen old breadnose in a while.

I think it was durowin. Or something. Probably got fired for the restroom thing.

• @joe.edwards said:

That reminds me, I haven't seen old breadnose in a while.
That would be drurowin; oddly, I remember because I always get him confused with dhromed. That's probably an insult to at least one of them. Anyway, he hasn't been around since 13 January.

• Whatever happened to that guy who added "furry porn comics by the pound" to his Christmas shopping list? Now THAT guy was funny. Drurowin was blah by comparison.

• @boomzilla said:

Probably got fired for the restroom thing.

Did he ever provide proof of that? That guy was a bit of a fantabulist. I stopped believing his more extravagant claims after he couldn't get MySQL to statically compile.

• @morbiuswilters said:

@boomzilla said:
Probably got fired for the restroom thing.

Did he ever provide proof of that? That guy was a bit of a fantabulist. I stopped believing his more extravagant claims after he couldn't get MySQL to statically compile.

No, he just stopped talking about it when the consensus agreed that it was a (IMHO, well done) hoax. I don't remember when that was (and can't be bothered to look it up); that may have been when he disappeared entirely, but I think I remember him still hanging around for a while after that.

• @HardwareGeek said:

No, he just stopped talking about it when the consensus agreed that it was a (IMHO, well done) hoax.

Ha! And who was on the cutting edge of saying it was a hoax? That's right: Morbs.

And who was on the first guy saying three years ago that Firefox had jumped the shark and was now awful? That's right: Morbs!

• @Rhywden said:

Why on earth should they lie to you? Simply don't answer and they're done playing this particularly stupid game.

Is the game really more stupid than claiming not to ever lie, or that no one ever needs to lie? Bear in mind, this exists because I've heard that stupid claim before. As games go, Starcraft is better.

@Frosh said:

Shh, they're making it easier to separate the autists from the pedants on this board.

I'll make it easier still. It turns out I'm both, but no more than anyone else.

@taustin said:

You make an excellent point. If a person is too dumb to understand that someone else's PIN is not their business, they probably won't understand the point either.

• @Shoreline said:

As games go, Starcraft is better.

BROOOOOOOONZE LEEEAAAGUE HEEEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOagh  coucgh cough

• @morbiuswilters said:

@HardwareGeek said:
No, he just stopped talking about it when the consensus agreed that it was a (IMHO, well done) hoax.

Ha! And who was on the cutting edge of saying it was a hoax? That's right: Morbs.

And who was on the first guy saying three years ago that Firefox had jumped the shark and was now awful? That's right: Morbs!

And who was the first person to post under the morbiuswilters account? You fucking guessed it...Morbs!

• @morbiuswilters said:

@Maciejasjmj said:
Apparently, way back in the 60s, when Poland was still on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall...

Thank God Poland moved a few hundred miles west..

Yes, that's exactly what happened. We're currently adrift in the Atlantic Ocean and preparing to invade the U.S. once we figure out how to make a big enough paddle.

This is why your people invented the gulag.

DON'T YOU DARE!

We only invented the concentration camps.

• @Maciejasjmj said:

We're currently adrift in the Atlantic Ocean and preparing to invade the U.S. once we figure out how to make a big enough paddle.

I'll activate the Girl Scouts reserves. They'll fatten you up with those damn cookies and then... .... I actually don't know what else Girl Scouts do.

@Maciejasjmj said:

We only invented the concentration camps.

And, from what I've heard, the submarine screen door.

• @Maciejasjmj said:

We only invented the concentration camps.
I'm sorry, but that was the British.

• @Lorne Kates said:

And who was the first person to post under the morbiuswilters account? You #@\$% guessed it...Morbs!

Wait....Morbs is actually a person?????  That changes everything (but only if true)

• @TheCPUWizard said:

@Lorne Kates said:

And who was the first person to post under the morbiuswilters account? You #@\$% guessed it...Morbs!

Wait....Morbs is actually a person?????  That changes everything (but only if true)

Did you fucking censor my quote?

• @Lorne Kates said:

Did you @\$%# censor my quote?

Yup! (still failing to see what value the original phrasing added, or even what relevance unless you are publicizing that you want sexual favors from Morbs)

• @TheCPUWizard said:

@Lorne Kates said:

Did you @\$%# censor my quote?

unless you are publicizing that you want sexual favors from Morbs)

And, as we all know, this doesn't need publication.

• @dkf said:

@Maciejasjmj said:
We only invented the concentration camps.
I'm sorry, but that was the British.

And yet the Irish still darken humanity's door. shakes head Pikers..

• I'm here. You people just scare me.

• @morbiuswilters said:

@boomzilla said:
Probably got fired for the restroom thing.

Did he ever provide proof of that? That guy was a bit of a fantabulist. I stopped believing his more extravagant claims after he couldn't get MySQL to statically compile.

I did end up getting it statically linked, but then I switched to a statically-linked MariaDB. (I keep trying to type it as MarioDB, and I don't get why.)

• @drurowin said:

MariaDB. (I keep trying to type it as MarioDB, and I don't get why.)
MarioDB has better game play.

• @drurowin said:

I keep trying to type it as MarioDB, and I don't get why.

Fat? Slow? Smell of whiskey under its breath?

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