A Logic Problem Involving Marvel Super-Heroes

Iron Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine each have a favorite food, a favorite beverage, own one pet, and have a single hobby. Based on the clues which follow, find out these things:

• Which hero’s favorite food is (A) pizza, (B) green eggs and ham, (C) apple pie, (D) Chinese take-out, and (E) caviar?
• Which hero’s favorite beverage is (A) beer, (B) vodka, (C) Coca-Cola, (D) water, and (E) chocolate milkshakes?
• Which hero owns (A) a black cat, (B) a porcupine, (C) a robot dog, (D) an iguana, and (E) a real dog?
• Which hero’s hobby is (A) coin collecting, (B) stamp collecting, (C) collecting comic books, (D) collecting seashells, and (E) collecting rocks?

Here are the clues. Answers will be revealed in the comments, but only after someone solves the puzzle (to avoid spoiling anyone’s fun).

1. Wolverine drinks beer.
2. Daredevil is blind. The other four heroes can all see.
3. Spider-Man eats pizza.
4. Wolverine has a mutant healing factor that allows him to rapidly heal from injuries.
5. Iron Man is the only one of these five heroes who wears a suit of armor.
6. The hero whose favorite food is apple pie always eats it with his favorite drink, Coca-Cola.
7. Iron Man drinks vodka.
8. All of the heroes who can see refuse to eat green eggs and ham.
9. Of these five heroes, no one without either a mutant healing factor or a suit of armor would be dumb enough to keep a porcupine as a pet.
10. Iron Man, an accomplished inventor, refuses to own a pet which he did not build himself.
11. The hero who eats apple pie doesn’t like chocolate, nor chocolate-flavored anything.
12. Iron Man has more money than all the other heroes combined.
13. The hero whose favorite food is pizza does not own a dog.
14. The seashell-collector is blind.
15. The owner of a real dog also collects stamps.
16. The porcupine-owner doesn’t like apple pie.
17. Spider-Man likes the black cat, but has to visit the cat’s owner in order to see her.
18. The richest hero eats caviar.
19. The coin collector doesn’t like pizza, nor porcupines.
20. The comic-book collector hates drinking water. He also doesn’t like milkshakes of any kind.
21. The owner of the black cat is lactose-intolerant, and, for this reason, doesn’t drink milkshakes.

The first person to leave the solutions in the comments wins bragging rights.

What do you mean, you “can’t wait?” Obviously, you can!

Why do people so often, and completely incorrectly, say they “can’t wait” for things? No one ever says this, it seems, unless they already are waiting for whatever they are talking about.

A seasonal example: “I can’t wait for Christmas!”

When I hear this, I generally point out to people that they are already waiting, and therefore, obviously, they can do so.

What is it with this? Why do so many people say this thing that clearly makes no sense at all?

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Oh, really?

I have observed that many people often stop thinking about a phrase, and simply accept it, if they hear it repeated enough times. Since I don’t want to make this error, I’ve developed a habit of questioning such phrases. This quote, from Friedrich Nietzsche, definitely qualifies as a phrase which many believe because it’s repeated a lot, and it is certainly questionable. More than that, in fact: it is utter nonsense — and I can prove it.

The method I will use for this proof is reductio ad absurdam, in which one temporarily assumes the statement is true, then shows that it leads to a conclusion which is pure nonsense, which, in turn, shows that the original assumption of truth was a faulty one.

So the Nietzsche quote, purely for the purposes of this proof, is now (temporarily) assumed to be true. Since being stronger is beneficial, it now follows that we should actually seek out things which damage us, but without killing us. It isn’t hard to think of examples of such behaviors.

If a person were to drive to a hospital’s emergency room, and, while standing just outside the entrance with a hacksaw, started using one hand to attempt to saw off the other one (warning: do not try this yourself!), damage would certainly result. This hypothetical person probably wouldn’t completely lose his hand, for (a) hacksaws are not fast, and (b) someone else would no doubt notice, and take action to stop the self-damage, in time to get him medical attention. He is, after all, already in the perfect place for it.

Another, much more common example:

It’s possible for a person to drink these boxes of inexpensive red wine at a rate of five a week, but it’s an incredibly bad idea. Alcohol will do serious damage, consumed at that rate, given enough time, as can be verified with virtually any physician. Surviving prolonged binge-drinking is possible (but not guaranteed), even if done for a few years; I know this to be true because I have witnessed it. It wasn’t a pretty thing to watch, and the binge drinker could not be persuaded to stop. The binge drinking finally ended, but with an emergency trip in an ambulance needed, for immediate medical care, to prevent imminent death.

In each case, (1) the hypothetical person who tries to saw off his own hand while standing outside an emergency room, and (2) the real person (an adult whom I will not name) who consumed dangerous quantities of alcohol, something happens which damages them, but doesn’t kill them. Does it make them stronger? The first person could easily lose some functionality in his hand, and could also end up in a psychiatric institution. The second person suffered numerous forms of permanent damage to multiple systems of the body, resulting in permanent disability. Both rack up huge medical bills. These aren’t good things, for either person, and they are quite unlikely to “make one stronger.” A far more likely outcome is the exact opposite — each person is weakened, in the sense that are are rendered less able to deal effectively with the rest of their lives.

The proof is now complete. It turns out that those things which do not kill you can, quite possibly, weaken you, and expecting them to make you stronger simply makes no sense. So, world, please stop repeating this insipid Nietzsche-quote. Not only is it logically invalid; it’s also become one of the most annoying clichés in existence.

Fortunately, for those who want advice which actually makes sense, there are many sources available which are not Friedrich Nietzsche.

[Note: I did not create the images in this post, but simply found them with Google image-searches for “hacksaw” and “box of wine.”]

“I would accept that as an axiom.” ~Spock

I would also accept this as an axiom. It’s obviously true, but I see no way to prove it. It is not what Spock was referencing in the above quotation, but the content of the quote still applies.

Amazingly, though, I have encountered people who think this is up for debate.

It isn’t.

One Aspect of Having Asperger’s (at least for one of us)

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Aspies (a term for ourselves, used by those with diagnosed or undiagnosed Asperger’s) sometimes have trouble understanding what people say, because we tend to view things literally, while many others often say things in non-literal, or even anti-literal, ways.

For example, without reasons known to us, person A says something offensive to person B. Why deliberately offend someone, without good cause? We don’t know. Person B then says, in response, “Say that again!” — and Aspies who hear this (and we do, for we’re everywhere) often become even more confused. Clearly, person B does not actually want to be offended again, yet is telling person A to do exactly that which person B does not really want person A to do. I’ve asked people to explain this behavior more than once, tried to understand it, and each time I revisit the subject, I become more confused than before, for understanding the explanation would involve bending my mind in a direction it simply won’t bend. I also must admit I do not want my mind to bend that direction, either, for fear that doing so would weaken my ability to reason logically.

This is true for much of what I hear. Things that do not make logical sense are inherently hard to understand, at least for us . . . and I don’t even understand why everyone isn’t like us in this respect, either.

On Twenty-Minuteism, and Young-Earth Creationism

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There exists a belief that everything — the entire universe — was created exactly twenty minutes ago. What’s more, it is completely impossible to prove that this belief is incorrect.

For the sake of argument, I’ll assume, temporarily, that this belief is true. You might then object that you’ve been sitting at your computer for over an hour, and remember events that happened yesterday, and have memories of your childhood, years ago. Are these objections a problem? Absolutely not! All I have to do, in order to nullify these objections, is explain that, when the universe was created twenty minutes ago, each of us was carefully created with a lifetime of false memories of an existence we believe we remember, but which is actually completely unreal — except for the last twenty minutes, of course.

Of course, this belief — while irrefutable — is also completely ridiculous. Could it be true? Yes, but there’s no reason to accept it as valid. Why? That’s simple: lack of evidence. It makes no sense to accept any proposition when no real evidence exists to support it.

Now, please compare Twenty-Minuteism, an extremely rare belief system, to Young-Earth Creationism, a set of beliefs firmly held by millions of people. These two points of view are basically the same, differing only in the amount of time involved. Young-Earth Creationists hold the view that everything was created fewer than ten thousand years ago, and most have a particular fondness for a period of time of approximately six thousand years, based on certain passages from the Bible.

The objections to Young-Earth Creationism are numerous, but its adherents have an answer for all of them. Take, for example, the existence of ancient fossils. It’s easy to claim that the earth was created with intact fossils underground, and then explain why this was done, in one of several ways. One such method is to claim that the creator of the universe placed these fossils underground, deliberately, as a test of our faith. Another explanation invokes an evil, supernatural being, and then blames this entity for placing these fossils underground, in order to deceive us, and lead us astray. My favorite version, though, is one I actually heard, many years ago, from a card-carrying, professional Creationist. He focused, in his work, on the fossils of large dinosaurs, and even had a dinosaur-silhouette on his slick, professional-looking business card, which he was proud to show me. As he explained it, dinosaurs were alive until the Great Flood described in the Book of Genesis drowned them all — and all that water mixed with soil to make vast amounts of mud. Since dinosaurs were large, heavy animals, he explained, their dead bodies sank further down into this mud, which later became rock — and that explains why dinosaur fossils are found further down than, say, fossilized mice, birds, or people. For someone so incredibly dense (in one sense of the word), this man had very little understanding of density — for it is density (not mass, nor volume, nor weight) which governs whether objects float or sink, in any fluid, as well as how far down they sink (if they sink at all), and he said nothing whatsoever about dinosaur density. I will give this man credit for two things: he was certainly memorable, as well as entertaining.

Another objection to Young-Earth Creationism is based on radioactive dating of rocks, but here’s how Creationists deal with that: they sometimes claim that radioactive-dating doesn’t actually work as scientists explain it, and sometimes even claim that scientists conspire to hide this “truth” from the public — and, of course, these Creationists also throw in just enough scientific-sounding jargon to fool a lot of gullible people. There is another way to “explain away” the radioactive-dating objection to Young-Earth Creationism, of course: just claim that radioisotope-ratios in rocks were created that way, by either a good or evil supernatural being, as a test of faith, or an act of deception — take your pick. This is, of course, the same chicanery usually used when dismissing fossils as evidence that their claims are wrong.

Astronomy provides yet another mountain of evidence to refute Young-Earth Creationism. A prime example of this is the nearest large galaxy, M31, known also as the Andromeda Galaxy — the most distant object which can be seen without a telescope. Scientists have used a variety of methods to calculate the distance to M31, and the current best-estimate of this distance is ~2.5 million light years. Since a light year is defined as the distance light travels in one year, this means we see Andromeda as it existed 2.5 million years ago. How can this be reconciled with the belief that the universe was created less than 10,000 years ago? Why, that’s simple — all you have to do is claim that the light we now see when we look at Andromeda didn’t actually originate there, but was created, at the same time as the rest of the universe, in such a way as to make it appear that this light has been in transit between galaxies. Question this assertion, and you’ll be introduced, once more, to the supernatural beings who are said to be testing us, or trying to deceive us.

The fact is that (except for the heavy-dinosaurs-sinking-further-down silliness described above) no one can disprove any of this nonsense. There is no evidence that supernatural beings have, in fact, not placed fossils underground, nor carefully arranged tricky isotope-ratios in rocks, nor created light in space, nearby, to make it appear that other galaxies existed millions, or even billions, of years ago. However, there is also a complete lack of evidence to support any of these extraordinary claims — just as there is no evidence for, or against, the equally-absurd, but less popular, beliefs of the Twenty-Minuteists. These two belief systems are not only equally absurd, but also equally valid, for zero, like all numbers, is equal to itself.

I have no intention of abandoning my skeptical, scientific approach to understanding as much as I can about reality, as it actually exists. However, if I do lose my mind, some time in the future, and abandon scientific skepticism, I still won’t join forces with the Young-Earth Creationists. After all, if one is going to embrace, and adopt, a irrational way of thinking, why choose one with which millions of people already agree? I much prefer to be different from other people, especially people in large groups, and have always been this way. It’s a core part of my personality.

I have no desire to be “normal,” and, where I live (in the Southern part of the United States), Young-Earth Creationism is (sadly) quite normal, in the sense that a great many people agree with it, despite the total lack of empirical evidence to support it. If I were to become a Twenty-Minuteist, by contrast, I would, at least, get to continue being different from nearly everyone else, rather than being just another normal person, lost in the crowd. To me, that’s at least worth something — something that Young-Earth Creationism simply cannot offer.