At sixes and sevens - where truth becomes cloudy

At sixes and sevens - where truth becomes cloudy
By Mark Mason on 30-05-12 15:31. Comments (0)
I recently wrote about the disappointment you feel when you discover that a favourite piece of London trivia isn't true. Peter Watts has mentioned this on his blog too (concerning the claim that Phyllis Pearsall walked every London street to compile the A to Z). And yes, it can be disappointing to see a much-loved ‘fact' come tumbling down. But perhaps help is at hand from our old friend coincidence ...

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Inspired by my book Walk the Lines: the London Underground - Overground, each of these trivia-packed walks uncovers London’s history by following a section of a Tube line ... at street level.


Tailor made quizzes


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Rubik's Cube

A Rubik’s cube has more combinations than light travels inches in a century. This is my favourite illustration of how a very small number of factors can produce an absurdly complicated situation. A silly little toy, with only three squares in each of its three dimensions. How can that get complicated? Well, as anyone who's ever tried to solve one just by guessing will tell you, it gets very complicated. The number of possible combinations is 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. Forget billions - that's 43 quintillion and change. (In fact the cube's manufacturers just said ‘billions' in their advertising, figuring that no one would know what a quintillion was. It's a billion billion.) The number of inches light travels in a century, meanwhile, is a mere 37,165,049,856,000,000,000. Or thereabouts.