Here is an example of how the use of simple mathematics can help you tell when someone is being…. umm…less than truthful.
— Someone once told me that he counted to one million in a single afternoon. Sounds plausible, doesn’t it?
When we do the math, we find that it is not at all plausible. In fact, it is impossible.
Let’s be generous and say that a person could count two numbers every second. That might be possible when the numbers are low but not when they get higher.
For example, try saying nine-hundred-fifty-two-thousand-one-hundred-seventy-six (952,176) in under one second. It can’t reasonably be done by a human being even once and definitely not repetitively.
Ok, I know what you are thinking. Go ahead and try it, I’ll wait here 🙂 ………
……….. pause ………… pause ……….. pause ………
Done? Good. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s press on:
So, it is impossible for a human being to count 2 numbers every second until he gets to 1 million.
But, for our example and in order to make sure that we don’t leave any room for doubt, we are going to use 2 numbers per second to show mathematically how impossible it is to count to 1 million in an afternoon.
Let’s also say that an afternoon, that is the time after 12:00 PM until evening, lasts 6 hours. Six hours after noon should put us into the early evening.
So, in effect, this person was telling me that he could count to 1 million in about 6 hours at 2 numbers per second.
Of course, it is hard to imagine that one would not take a break from counting during that 6 hour period, but let us also assume that he took zero breaks during that period of time.
So if we have one million numbers and we can say two numbers per second, it will take us 500,000 seconds to say all of the numbers – at which time we will have successfully counted to one million.
500,000 X 2 = 1 million or 1 million numbers divided by 2 numbers per second = 500,000 seconds.
There are 60 seconds in one minute and 60 minutes in one hour.
At the one hour mark, using our assumption of 2 numbers per second we would have counted:
(60 seconds/1 minutes) X (60 Minutes/1 hour) X (2 numbers/second) = 60X60X2= 7200 numbers/hour
This can also be said as 7200 numbers per hour.
If you are having fun with this, you can also find out how to make math fun for children to learn [AFF]
So, using our assumptions above (which aren’t really possible) a person might count 7200 numbers in 1 hour.
Now, we have six hours in which to work.
Therefore, we can now multiply 7200 numbers * 6 Hours to get 43,200 numbers
(7200 numbers / hour ) * 6 Hours = 43,200 numbers
And we can see that 43,200 numbers does not even come close to 1,000,000 (1 million numbers)
This person was not telling us the truth as it would be impossible for a human being to count that many numbers in the course of a 6 hour afternoon.
Now, let’s assume the person wasn’t outright fibbing to us. He probably believed that he actually did that one time.
Human nature being what it is, it is not difficult to imagine that.
However, you can see how the use of simple mathematics can help us to know when someone is telling the truth or not. Therefore, the next time that salesmen comes to the door or you get a circular in the mail that sounds too good to be real, you’ll have an idea on how to determine the truth.