This piece was written for the Six Sentence challenge, with the prompt word of ‘explore’.
The pedagogic method that Professor of Mathematics at H. R. Umph University, Archer Roman, used to awaken young minds and explore the hitherto unplumbed depths of their intelligence was to occasionally posit a trick question (hence his nickname of Fibbin’ Archie) and see how long it took them to cotton on.
The conundrum for his students was that he would do this randomly in amongst an otherwise world-class grounding in applied mathematics, which had become an almost obligatory pre-requisite to join the upper echelons of key scientific fields, such as computing, environmental science and the military (e.g. developing methods to kill people more efficiently).
On this particular day, Professor Roman (sporting his usual eccentric attire of trilby hat, kilt and Doc Marten boots) posited this problem to his rapt but anxious students: ‘What mathematical formula can be used to measure the likelihood of a politician lying at any given moment? Use all that I have taught you to reach your answer and provide proofs as to how you achieved it, by tomorrow.’
The wailing that evening from the student accommodation, fed by a constant stream of pizza and Red Bull, was akin to that said to emanate from the lower depths of Hell and one poor soul had to be restrained from hurling himself through a third-floor window.
The following morning a sorry parade of bedraggled and red-eyed students shuffled into his class, with the single exception of Teresa Green, a scholarship student (courtesy of the benevolence of the Max Factor Foundation) who clearly had experienced a refreshing sleep and was as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as a vixen.
Professor Roman fixed on Teresa and said, ’You appear to have either given up or solved the problem’, to which she replied, ‘When x equals the degree to which the subject’s lips are moving, any value of x above zero is proof positive of the presence of mendacity’, and the width of the professor’ smile far exceeded the length of the other students’ faces.
Note: Sorry, but I couldn’t resist a pun on the name of one of the great mathematicians of all time, Fibonacci, from which Fibonacci numbers are derived. Fibonacci sequences appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruitlets of a pineapple, the flowering of artichokes, the uncurling of a fern, the arrangement of a pine cone, as well as the family tree of honeybees. They also do something very clever when it comes to tracing your genealogy back to where you started but I got lost somewhere in the seventh begat.