Friday, 20 February 2009

The interminable problem of cutting the neighbors’ kid’s birthday cake

It’s the neighbors’ kid’s birthday and there are three of us:

Me: Would you cut the cake into three equal pieces please?
Him: I can’t.
Me: What do you mean you can’t? You have a knife don’t you?
Him: Yes, but I can’t cut the cake into three equal pieces.
Me: Why not?
Him: Because I can’t!
Me: But of course you can!
Him: No you can’t!
Me: (taking the knife from the kid, and then cutting the cake into three pieces) Look! I’ve done it!
Him: No you haven’t. That’s wrong. Those are not three equal pieces… It’s not fair one of us will have a piece larger than the others…

This is the sort of conversation you can have with someone suffering from Asperger's syndrome (which most people call autism, but Asperger's syndrome is just one type of autism). In a way the kid is right of course – the cake cannot be cut into three equal pieces – well at least if you are only able to think in decimals and not fractions. After all, what is one divided by three? Well, it’s 0.3333333333333333333333333333333333 according to Bill Gates’ calculator in Windows XP. But of course it doesn’t stop there, and the answer is infinite. You’d never reach an answer if you counted all day. Hell, no wonder the kid was angry. He was right after all. Cos you can’t cut a cake into three equal pieces can you?


wankongyew said...

I've found myself pondering the impossibility of dividing something into three as a kid, but I soon snapped out of it.

It's not so hard when dealing with a cake anyway. Just measure the cake according to weight and cut small bits from each piece and move to another as appropriate so that they are equal as far as the weighing scale is able to determine.