Two men ride their horses to the town blacksmith to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage. To help decide who will get to marry her, the blacksmith proposes a very strange race:
"You will race your horses down the mile-long road from here to the center of town, and the man whose horse passes through city hall's gates LAST will get to marry my daughter."
The men have no idea how to proceed, but after a few minutes of thinking, they come up with a great idea to abide by the blacksmith's rules. 30 minutes later, one of the men is gloating, having won the daughter's hand in marriage.
What was the idea the men had?
Each man rides the other man's horse. They race as they normally would. The blacksmith said the man whose horse crosses last would win, so the man who wins the race would have his horse finish last.
Last week, the local Primary school was visited by the Government School Inspector who was there to check that teachers were performing well in their respective classes. He was very impressed with one particular teacher. The Inspector noticed that each time the class teacher asked a question, every child in the class put up their hands enthusiastically to answer it. More surprisingly, whilst the teacher chose a different child to answer the questions each time, the answers were always correct.
Why would this be?
The children were instructed to ALL raise their hands whenever a question was asked. It did not matter whether they knew the answer or not. If they did not know the answer, however, they would raise their LEFT hand. If they knew the answer, they would raise their RIGHT hand. The class teacher would choose a different child each time, but always the ones who had their RIGHT hand raised.
Consider the following explanation for why 1=2:
1. Start out Let y = x
2. Multiply through by x xy = x2
3. Subtract y2 from each side xy - y2 = x2 - y2
4. Factor each side y(x-y) = (x+y)(x-y)
5. Divide both sides by (x-y) y = x+y
6. Divide both sides by y y/y = x/y + y/y
7. And so... 1 = x/y + 1
8. Since x=y, x/y = 1 1 = 1 + 1
8. And so... 1 = 2
How is this possible?
Step 5 is invalid, because we are dividing by (x-y), and since x=y, we are thus dividing by 0. This is an invalid mathematical operation (division by 0), and so by not followinng basic mathematical rules, we are able to get strange results like these.