19 December 2008

Guessing the answer without knowing the question

Ian Ayres asks a question at Freakonomics. Which of the following is the correct answer? 4π, 8π, 16, 16π or 32π square inches?

No, I didn't forget the question. But it's possible to make a reasonable guess by trying to reverse-engineer the question.

(Don't read the comments. They're full of people who didn't get it.)

9 comments:

michaeldcassidy said...

I like his reasoning for choosing 4 pi over 16 pi. I didnt see that at all.

John said...

That's hilarious, or sad, depending on how you look at it.

Jason Dyer said...

I had a post about the same sort of thing back in May.

http://numberwarrior.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/exceedingly-lame-final-question/

melted-snowball said...

I'm guessing it has to do with the amount of pizza in an 8" pizza.

jd2718 said...

I immediately jumped to his question (and answer), but then thought some more. If I were making the test, I wouldn't want this sort of analysis to work. So, is there another question that gives this array of wrong answers (with the right answer buried there)?

How about finding the area of two circles, each with radius 2?

unapologetic said...

And then there's the zero-knowledge test.

Julian said...

My father used a similar technique for solving chemistry questions based on the gender of the (hypothetical) chemists.

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