Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pair of Puns

In one of my first computer classes there was a question on the final that went something like, "Why are Halloween and Christmas the same?"

Or it might have been posed more like, "Prove the following equation."
31 OCT = 25 DEC

If you re-write this, just slightly, as
31oct = 25dec

then you can use a pair of puns ("October" and "octal" are both customarily abbreviated "oct." and "December" and "decimal" can both be written as "dec." (ignoring capitalization)) to move the problem out of the calendar and into numbers.

Once it's numbers, you can look at "31" as being a base 8 number and "25" as being a base 10 number and, it's easy to show that, since
3 x 8 + 1 = 2 x 10 + 5

these are indeed just two ways of writing the same number.

So, the dates for Halloween in base 8 (octal) and Christmas in base 10 (decimal) are the same.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the professor who set the exam for proper attribution.

Oh, the first line of this post might have been, "Warning: math ahead." But I was hoping a math-o-phobe or two might be tricked into reading it.


Kelline said...

That's pretty cool. I love math trickier....

Myrna said...

That is actually very cool. Even a total math phobe would enjoy playing that trick on someone. I think I might try it!

Nancy said...

You tricked me!!

But that was pretty cool :)

David said...


Don't get me started about the Ferris Wheel and the Propyl-People-Ether.

Abra said...

you got me too, but it was interesting :)