So, googling 11/22/63, the name of the Stephen King book, I found out Google also gives you the result of that query as a math problem. This feature is not new, of course; what was new was I noticed the answer was this:

(11/22)/63 = 0.00793650794.

Two points of somewhat exaggerated mathrage about this.

1) That’s not an exact value! Don’t use the equals sign when you’re giving an approximation, you… you brutes! That’s almost 10^{-11} of potential error!

(Wolfram Alpha: 1/126 = 0.0079365 and then 079365 repeats forever)

This is not much of an error; but as a mathematician it strikes me as horrendously creepy (you may not feel likewise) to be presented an equals when an approximation is meant. The value may be close; but the kind is vastly different. Suppose you thought that—

Hang on a minute.

Surely not.


Cannot be.

On the search “pi”, I get this:

pi = 3.14159265.

Well, that’s pi then, a nice and clear rational number. Initiate brain hemorrhage!

2) The answer given is at best one of two possible values; at worst, it is total nonsense. The mathematical expression 11/22/63 is monstrously ill-defined, for it contains two divisions without clearly telling which divides what. You could just as well suppose it meant

\displaystyle 11/(22/63) = 31.5,


On the other hand, I hear the book is good, so I shouldn’t make up forced gripes like this. But what else is a math-type going to do? Complain that in the Game of Thrones, note plural, there actually is just one throne?


On the other hand, much of Internet is interested in “lulz”, that is, transient and often malicious feelings of excitement and amusement. (As in, Q: “Why did you open a parachuting academy next to the pound, Mr. Larson?” A: “I did for the lulz.”)

I believe it would be possible to determine the exact value of one lul with full pseudoscientific accuracy, and to use it to measure just how amusing all manner of things are.

Experiment one. Obtain data by establishing things of zero lulz. Experiment to be conducted thru Chatroulette.

Experiment two. Obtain data by establishing chains of increasing lulz. Experiment to be conducted thru Chatroulette, with flashing images. (Example: If the subject expresses amusement at Img #1 (“A cat”), more amusement at Img #2 (“A cat in a maid costume”) and least amusement at Img #3 (“Necrosis”), the chain 3<1<2 is implied.)

Experiment three. Hoodwink the gullible public by choosing the point of one lul yourself; they don’t understand you can do this at any value you want! Solicit cash offerings from Internet authorities beforehand; Blogfather J.S. might pay big bucks to have the Baconcat be exactly one lul, ensuring his immortal fame for centuries to come.)

Experiment four. Submit to Acta Math., highest impact factor in mathematics; wait for results. In case the null hypothesis is confirmed, drink heavily, resubmit, get ready for the next project.

Next project: Are pets combustible? Forge a prior OK paper from the university Ethics Committee; blackmail them for big money. Use money to fund next project.

Next project: Orbital laser. Make indecipherable blueprints and build cunning miniatures. Put them in a package and mail it to a random address in the States, dusted with a recreational substance. Once the package is seized by their rabid border authority people and well-behaving dogs, they will find this slip at the bottom: “KGB surplus! For more info, visit” — and then a suspicious Russian web address you have registered beforehand, using an ID borrowed from a Russian post-doc. The address is a confusing maze of nonsensical pages with millions of ads; the CIA, FBI, NSA, WTF, NASA and SS (wait, no, the Secret Service) and the other authorities visiting it, increasingly confused and alarmed, should generate big money. This big money is intimated to go into the next project; while the department worries about that, take the money and dean’s Mercedes and run.

Experiment five. Tahiti: Nice or super?

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