Issue #23/48, September 24 - October 8, 1998

Crisis Mathematics

In This Issue
Feature Story
Burt's Picks

Crisis Mathematics
Crime Opportunities Page


Foreigner Equations
8 questions
30 minutes

This section contains two types of questions. For multiple choice problems, mark the correct answer in the space provided with a No. 2 pencil. For all other problems, use the space provided to calculate your answer and mark the solution by circling it.

When finished with this test, please return to your post in government and wait there for further instructions.

Test results will be posted in Red Square on November 7.


1. Type A Russian-made rope costs $2 per meter, Type B Chinese-made rope $1 per meter, and Type C German-made rope $6 per meter. When used to suspend an object weighing 80 kg or less, the Russian rope snaps 10% of the time, the Chinese rope 20% of the time, and the German rope just 2% of the time. When used to suspend objects weighing between 80-100kg, the Russian rope snaps 15% of the time, the Chinese rope 30% of the time, and the German rope just 5% of the time. When used to suspend objects weighing more than 100kg, the Russian rope snaps 35% of the time, the Chinese rope 50% of the time, and the German rope just 10% of the time. When rioters storming the U.S. Embassy round up employees awaiting the last helicopter out of the country, they discover that their prisoners can be sorted into the following weight categories:

Less than 80kg: 10 workers
Between 80-100kg: 22 workers
100 kg or more: 4 workers

Assuming that the rioters will need 3 meters of rope to hang each American, what is the smallest amount of of money they can spend on rope in order to be at least 95% sure that they have enough to hang everybody without having to go back to make a second purchase?

2. As the winter progresses in Moscow more and more condensation accumulates on the ground in the form of snow. As a result, the Moscow river can be expected to recede steadily until the spring thaw. On average, the river level falls .05 cm every day after October 1 until April 1, when it begins to rise again at a rate of .05 cm a day. At the start of the financial crisis on August 17, 1998, the river at its highest point was just 5.5 cm below the crest of the riverbank.

On that same day, a crowd of nationalists pulls a Danish commodities analyst out of the American Bar and Grill, weighs him down with metal scraps and cement, and throws him in the river. When he fails to surface, the Westerner population in the capital is reduced to 29,999 Europeans and 20,000 somewhat more overweight Americans.

Assuming the river level rises an average of .01 cm for every 100 Europeans thrown in and .015 for every 100 Americans, and assuming the number of Westerners thrown in the river doubles every day as the crisis progresses, on what date will the river most likely overflow if:

     a) Americans and Europeans are executed at an equal rate?

     b) Americans are normally executed at a equal rate as Europeans, but twice as often on Ladies' Nights at the Hungry Duck (i.e. Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays)?

     c) Americans are executed at an equal rate until September 27, the day the customer list for Jack's pizza is seized- at which point they are all rounded up and summarily executed on the same day?

3. General X comes out of retirement to assume the post of Prime Minister on October 15. On that same day, he begins reading a biography of Chilean President Augusto Pinochet. He reads at a rate of 2 pages per day on days in which he is not overseeing the departure of cattle-wagons to Siberia, 1 page per day on which he is overseeing the departure of cattle-wagons to Siberia, and no pages per day on the first day of each month, when representatives of the International Monetary Fund visit Moscow. After the first prisoner convoy of 2,000 known oppositionists departs Moscow on General X's second day in office, the number of days each week in which prisoners are exiled increases by 1 for each successive week until such time as the rate levels off at 7 days per week.

When he reaches page 35 of his book, General X reads for the first time about President Pinochet's method of disposing of opposition sympathizers by pushing them out of helicopters above the Pacific Ocean. From that date on, General X cancels the convoys and conserves money by pushing dissenters out of 16 aging military transport helicopters over uninhabited areas of the Tula region every day. These helicopters break down at a rate of two per week, and are repaired at a rate of one per visit of an International Monetary Fund representative.

Assuming that airports are closed and that foreigners can be arrested for political offenses, assuming General X can dispose of 1000 oppositionists per day per helicopter, and given a population in Moscow of 10 million, please answer the following questions:

     a) How many people will have been either exiled out of Moscow or executed before the government runs out of functioning helicopters and is forced to reactivate the cattle-wagons?

     b) What are your chances of being deported in a cattle-wagon, as opposed to being pushed out of a helicopter, in the period between Oct. 16 and April 16?

     c) Assuming a 50% annual success rate in obtaining convincing false exit visa documentation, are you statistically more or less likely to survive one year under General X? Two years? Three or more?

4. At 12:00 noon on November 1, a Molotov cocktail is tossed from the street into the lobby of Coca-Cola's Moscow headquarters, which contains 37 rooms. Two hours later, PepsiCo executives in Moscow are surprised when a Molotov cocktail lands in their offices, which encompass 34 rooms in all. Assuming fire consumes commercial office space at a rate of 2 rooms per hour, what kind of soft drink will Russia's next generation be choosing with ovewhelming frequency by the end of fiscal year 1999?

a) kvas b) tea c) boiled water d) snow

5. There is a knock at your door. Prior to hearing it, you, a foreigner, had neither left your apartment nor watched television since late September, 1998. Your Lexus remains parked outside and your actual address is registered with the OVIR. It is now January 1, 1999.Given what you knew of the political and social tensions in Moscow back then, which of the following do you think this knock now is more likely to signal?

a) good news b) bad news c) really bad news d) really good news

6. An Ilyushin-76 en route to New Delhi containing 55 Russian chelnoki and vacationing Moscow Times columnist Jean MacKenzie crashes high in the Ural mountains in winter. Emergency Ministy workers are busy finding housing for refugees from political unrest and fail to locate the plane. After one month, the nine corpses in the plane have been devoured and, with five left, the 41 survivors begin to scrutinize one another. A provisional “leadership council” of pilots and alpha males which has been elected to organize a rescue party decide secretly to send the survivor with the largest appetite along with the rescue team as the "cow" who can be killed and eaten along if things get tricky. As of February 1, the surviving MacKenzie has consumed an average of 1.1 kilograms of human flesh per day, the fourth-most behind two obese men and one as-yet-undetected cannibalistic serial killer passenger who have respectively consumed 1.2, 1.3, and 1.7 kilos per day. The leadership council is also reading a selection of MacKenzie's recent columns found in her luggage with the help of an English-Russian dictionary at a rate of 134 words a day. Each 700-word column the council reads makes them 7% more likely to choose MacKenzie as the "cow". Assuming that the council will make its decision on March 1, how much will she have to reduce her sustenance intake every day in order to offset the emotions inspired by her column and ensure that the serial killer is chosen as the "cow"?

7. Figure A represents a circle.
The circle is formed by 37 members of Mikhail Barkashov's Russian National Union party. B represents one party member on the periphery of that circle. At the center of the circle is C, which represents a second-year Nigerian Patricia Lumumba University student named Ngwatha and his Russian date for the evening, Natasha. If line CB=(6-X) and X=the number of seconds that have elapsed since the circle formed, then:

     a) How much area will Ngwatha and Natasha have left in which to maneuver four seconds after the circle is formed?

     b) What will be the value of X when Natasha hands back her flowers and says, "Excuse me, but I think you have me confused with someone else!"

8. Carol J., an American journalist, has been bent into triangle ABC and placed in a cell in the basement of the Lubyanka prison. Michael S., another American journalist, has been bent into another triangle which, when stacked on top of Carol J., can be expressed by EDC. Given the diagram below (not drawn to scale) and assuming AB=AC and X=20:

     a) What is the value of Y?

     b) What is the value of Z?

     c) Assuming N= the number of public misstatements about Russia attributed to each triangle and P= the number of thesaurus dictionaries contained in each triangle, and NABC=4,075 and NEDC=880 while PABC=6 and PEDC=11, what is the value of PN in the polygon FECB assuming neither prisoner is allowed to move?