2 + 2 = 7 (Because sometimes what you DON’T know matters)

Anyone who knows any math will know that the single most certain truth on earth is that the Cubs will never win the pendant. Or this was true for 108 years…

Wait, no, I was going to say, the single most certain truth on earth is “2+2=4”. It is completely indisputable. Except when it’s wrong. I’m just going to come out and say it:

2 + 2 =7.

cake bath

You might want to stick to your old school math guns and insist that the answer is 4, but I’m telling you I have scientific proof of what I am saying. BASED ON AN EXPERIMENT I DID MYSELF!


The experiment went as follows: I have several boxes which I pulled out of the pantry, and then I labeled then numerically based on the order in which I pulled them out. The first box was noodles. That box is 1. The second box was a mix for chocolate cake. The third box was exactly the same as the second, so I labeled them both as “2”.

Well, these are big boxes, and each weighs three and a half pounds. (You’ve probably guessed that I got them at Costco.) When I added up the weight of both boxes, they totaled seven pounds of mix! I’ll be eating cake until my NEXT birthday!

So you can see, when I added 2 and 2 I got 7!


Oh, wait. It seems I left something out of my calculations.

Yes, I think I ought to label my data a little more clearly. Let’s see what happens when I do that…

Looking back I guess what I should have said was, The weight of box 2 + the weight of box 2 = 7 lbs.

It seems I did leave out a bit of context.

What I think we all learned from this is simply that someone with no ability to resist chocolate cake should not shop at Costco.

Wait, no, that wasn’t….

Well, ok, that too. But what we are supposed to have learned is that the unspoken assumptions or context in any given situation can make a world of difference. In the case of basic math, the assumed context is always that the numbers represent single units, meaning that 2+2=4 means two units plus two units equals four units. We’re used to not saying it, because all through grade school that’s all it means. This is the normal use of numbers, and frankly, third graders really don’t need to do anything else with them. If you’re eight years old, you shouldn’t be worrying about meters per second squared unless you’re a nerd destined to be a super hero.

However, when you get into something like Physics in high school, you need to know what the units are. Two WHAT plus two WHAT? Feet per second? Pounds per square inch? These things matter. Getting this wrong causes your three billion dollar space craft to crash into Mars instead of landing there like it was supposed to, and then you and your PhD in engineering wind up living behind a dumpster licking chocolate out of discarded candy wrappers.

Here’s some free advice: At your next interview, try to pass that incident off as a “Minor Math Error” and not a “Three Billion Dollar Loss.”

And here is the takeaway: When you’re having an argument with someone, ask yourself, “What is NOT being said?” Try and figure out what YOU have forgotten to say, and what THEY have forgotten to say. In the spaces where you don’t say something, other people often fill in the blanks with their own assumptions, and we tend to do the same to them. Sometimes figuring out what is meant when it hasn’t been said can resolve a whole lot of conflict.

On the other hand sometimes it can cause a whole lot of conflict. I am here of course thinking about dating. But that’s a topic for a different blog.


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