Sunday Levity: What did Musharraf get in maths?

What’s something divided by zero?

General Musharraf is becoming too frequent a guest on Sunday Levity. But this one deserves mention. Responding to now routine concerns over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, he said:

“The only way it would be endangered would be if al-Qaeda gets so strong that it defeats the Pakistan Army, or if Taleban supporters win the election, and the possibility is zero, multiplied by zero and divided by zero.” [Times Online]

We know that when he talks about being 400% sure he’s likely to be lying. But in this case he may be, ironically, telling the truth. For unless he is a student of Brahmagupta’s mathematics (circa 628 CE), he is effectively saying that the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of al-Qaeda/Taliban is indeterminate. In other words, we just can’t say that the chances are.

Sunday Levity: Lessons on strategy from a kindergartener

Checkers, candy and rules of the game

This Saturday, the father thought, he would complete a few more chapters of the book he was supposed to reading. But before long, the kindergartener was back in the room.

“Let’s play checkers”, she said. “I like checkers”. [For the uninitiated, her likes change roughly every 45 seconds]

“Okay”, said the father, putting away the book.

She took out the board and the coins. Then she noticed a tube of candy on the table.

“Can I have a candy, please?” she asked, sweetly. [For the uninitiated, she does this every 45 seconds, until the tube is empty]

The father worried about what the mother would say if she found out that the father had allowed the kindergartener to have yet another candy. He had to think fast.

Firmly, he said “Do you want to to eat the sweet or play checkers?” He complimented himself for coming up with this masterstroke. She could either eat the candy and leave him in peace, or play checkers and let him show his wife that contrary to popular belief, he was serious about discipline and all that.

“I’ll want to eat the candy first, and then let’s play checkers.” The reply strangely made him feel rather proud.

“Let me teach you how it’s played. You need to place your coins (she wanted the red ones) on these squares like this. I’ll place mine at the other end. Then we move…and if I jump over your coin, I’ve ‘killed’ it, and it goes off the board. The objective of the game is…”

Before he could finish, the kindergartener was neatly taking her coins off the board, and placing it behind her.

“Wh..what are you doing?” he asked. “How can we play the game if you take your coins off the board?”

“If my coins are going to be killed, I don’t want to put them on the board”, she said.

The father thought she had won. And he could read the book now.

“Let’s play Memory”, she said. “I like Memory.”