Questions I will not Answer

Ask Marilyn ® by Marilyn vos Savant is a column in Parade Magazine, published by PARADE, 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA. According to Parade, Marilyn vos Savant is listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame" for "Highest IQ."

Many of the emails I receive are variations on the following themes. I am no longer able to respond individually to such emails.

• You claimed that one of Marilyn's Questions is ambiguous. You are mistaken. The question is perfectly clear. There is only one reasonable interpretation.

The Rubin Vase, named after psychologist Edgar Rubin of Denmark, is a well known ambiguous figure. It can be interpreted as a black vase against a white background, or as two white faces against a black background. Some people have trouble seeing one or the other of these two interpretations. However, to argue that only one interpretation exists, or that only one interpretation is correct, is, in my humble opinion, presumptuous.

I believe it is equally presumptuous to argue that ambiguity does not exist in a question posed to Marilyn, when other people see ambiguity.

• There are exactly 2 (or 3, or 4...) possibilities. Therefore, the probability is 1/2 (or 1/3, or 1/4...).

This is like saying that there are exactly three possibilities in a coin toss: heads, tails, or edge. While it's true that it may be possible to balance a coin on its edge, the probability of this outcome is extremely small. Many situations in real life (and in many of the problems discussed on this web site) are not equally likely.

Furthermore, some situations are not mathematically predictable. For example, it is not valid to argue that the street performer who places an object under one of three walnut shells, and then shuffles them produces a result that is mathematically predictable.

• Can you Answer a question about Marilyn, or help me to solve a problem?

Unfortunately, no. I am really not interested in collecting trivia about Marilyn, nor do I have time to solve the many problems that people ask me.

• Get a life. Everybody makes mistakes. You're jealous of Marilyn.

If I were as intelligent as Marilyn (which I don't claim to be), I would consider myself a failure if my most significant claim to fame were answering riddles in Parade Magazine.

http://www.wiskit.com/marilyn/noanswer.html last updated August 28, 2005 by herbw@wiskit.com