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A study in calculus: Sherlock deductions aid students

By: Stephen Kerby

Gone are the days of writing formulae on one’s arm or sneaking a roll of answers into the classroom inside a burrito.  Now, students faced with near-impossible examinations are consulting the methods of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, to aid them, with remarkable effects that are being felt in study sessions and administration offices.  

For the first time, this method is released to the public in an easy-to-use guideline format, using an example from a CHEM 213 exam…

Question: What is the maximum temperature, in degrees Celsius, that the tiles onboard the Space Shuttle reach during reentry?

Clue: The font of the question is Arial

Deduction: It is clear that this is a play on words, as crafted by a clever professor. Arial font indicates that our final answer will be aerial, or very high.

Clue: Clearly the best way to solve this question, is to truly understand the question. The Space Shuttle was launched with a big orange tank attached, but that tank is jettisoned when the Shuttle reaches space.

Deduction: The tank is missing, just like the answer to this question.

Clue: We are asked for temperature, but the tank is obviously the missing link. It would aid us in our search to ask who is the largest producer of orange paint in the world, and thus, who would profit from the loss of the big orange tank?

Deduction: PPG Industries, of course. PPG Industries is hiding the answer from us so we don’t discover the answer to our question. It is easy to see that PPG industries is actually based near Cleveland…a conspiracy emerges as we get closer to the answer.

Clue: The “degrees Celcius” is written out, instead of being written as “℃”

Deduction: This tricky notation implies we must go a roundabout way to answering this question. CWRU is clearly involved in shady business involving the Space Shuttle. In 2007, the Space Shuttle carried the Leonardo component to the ISS, and Leonardo da Vinci was regarded as the all-around “Renaissance man.”  

Clue: 2007 was also the year in which the “Fat Man Carrying a Surfboard” controversy rocked the campus. Coincidence? I think not! We now have enough information to draw a conclusion…

Conclusion: If we take the year of Leonardo Da Vinci’s birth, 1452, and subtract it from the year of the Surfboard Controversy, 2007, we get 555. Ignoring the fact that that number is three of the same digit (Illuminati?), if we add twice that to the year 540, probably the year of a comet impact due to tree ring observations, we get 1650 degrees C as our final answer.


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