## 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.)

Anonymous said...

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

Anonymous said...

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

Anonymous 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/

Anonymous said...

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

Anonymous 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?

Anonymous said...

And then there's the zero-knowledge test.

Anonymous said...

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

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