Sunday, September 7, 2014

Riddle me this...

As you last recall…
We were able to find your age using your cell phone number.

Step 1: Take the last two digits of your cell number
Step 2: ×2
Step 3: +5
Step 4 ×50
Step 5: +1764
Step 6: Subtract your birth year (example:1965)

You will get 4 digits.
  • The first two digits will be the cell numbers.
  • The next two digits will be your age.

How can it be so?
Answer below…

I found this intriguing when I stumbled upon it since I do some analytical problem solving for a living.  I employed some of the methods we use at work when faced with a perplexing situation. There is also a Faith & Reason connection in here somewhere, so here we go…

1. Identify base premise or premises
For this case:
Your cell phone number and your age correlate. This should NOT be happening!

2. Separate & clarify the situation
Breakdown the situation into specific/actionable elements to minimize/alleviate:
  • Over-generalizations
  • Assumed cause-effect relationships
  • Reality confusion
  • Rationality overloaded by feelings
  • Being overwhelmed by the scope of the problem

3. Make thinking “visible”
Since this is about numbers and variables, knowledge and experience with algebra can be used to simultaneously breakdown the problem and make the thinking visible.

x = last two digits of cell #
y = your birth year
z = your age this year

(2x+5)50 + 1764 - y = 100x + z
100x + 250 + 1764 - y = 100x + z
100x + 2014 - y = 100x + z

4. Sort relevant data from irrelevant data
“100x” is irrelevant because they cancel out in the equation above, so "x” is also irrelevant.

We are left with:
2014 - y = z

5. Track assumptions
Is “2014” just the current year used to calculate your age?

6. Verify assumptions
Pretend it's the year 2024 (you are 10 years older) and re-try the riddle. It doesn't work.

7. Form conclusions
  • The cell phone number (“x”) is irrelevant data in terms of your age.
            - It can be any number.
            - It is not used to find your age.
            - Your cell number is in the riddle to freak you out.
  • The other numbers are a clever way to get you to calculate the current year (2014).
Call the current year “c”
  • We are left with “c” and “y” as the only relevant data in terms of your age “z”.

c - y = z
current year - birth year = age

No concern here.

What kind of faith & reason connection can we make from all this? Perhaps it’s that we cannot reduce the reality around us to only surface observations, or only one way of looking at things. This may not sound very “Catholic” on the surface, but I think it is, as long as we deal with reality in its proper context.

Much in the riddle was invisible to us in the beginning which made it unsettling. It seems your age just “magically” appeared by itself out of some arbitrary numbers and steps, but things became visible with some time, effort and a rational approach that brought clarity and deeper understanding.

Far from being something born of chance, we see that there must have been a mind behind it all, and a very clever mind at that. All I did was discover and sort facts that were already there, and think about what was already thought of before. In the end we found the riddle to be “intelligible”, which ultimately implies “intelligence”. We don’t know how or why the riddler thought of this, but we do know that it requires thinking.

I think the same can be said about the riddle of our “being”, about the course of our lives, about mankind as evolutionary “overkill” (in terms of surviving & reproducing), about how our planet and the entire universe just happened to “magically” appear and “calculate” itself in our favor. Intellectual honesty tells us that it’s all beyond what mindlessness can do. As Albert Einstein once said, “The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it is comprehensible”.

Going beyond just deism, when we grow in our catholic faith, we grow in the right perception of all reality, as we say in our creed, of all things visible AND invisible.

“…when we reflect on ourselves as knowers, it is clear that we are pattern-seeking and pattern-loving creatures, creatures curiously made to be curious amidst an order curiously designed to be sought.”

From “A Meaningful World” by Benjamin Wiker & Jonathan Witt



  1. It also doesn't work if you haven't had your birthday for the year yet.

    1. Hi TM,
      True, but it does come eerily close.

  2. To be pedantic, it also doesn't work if you are 100+ years old. :)