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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.




Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

There Is Nothing As Unpatriotic In A Free Country As Coercion

This is a guest column published today in the Sunday Times of India edit page. Last Tuesday, I went to…

Demonetisation Tales

This is the 23rd installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

The Rise and Fall of Emperor Modi

This is the 33rd installment of Lighthouse, my monthly column for BLink, a supplement of the Hindu Business Line. November…

The Humanitarian Cost Trumps Any Economic Argument

Every time a poor person dies, India's GDP per capita goes up. #Modinomics— Amit Varma (@amitvarma) November 23, 2016 So…

Narendra Modi takes a Great Leap Backwards

This is a guest column published today in the Sunday Times of India edit page. In 1958, Chairman Mao ordered…

10 March, 2012

III = III + III

Jonah Lehrer writes in Wired:

Here’s a brain teaser: Your task is to move a single line so that the false arithmetic statement below becomes true.

IV = III + III

Did you get it? In this case, the solution is rather obvious – you should move the first “I” to the right side of the “V,” so that the statement now reads: VI = III + III. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of people (92 percent) quickly solve this problem, as it requires a standard problem-solving approach in which only the answer is altered. What’s perhaps a bit more surprising is that nearly 90 percent of patients with brain damage to the prefrontal lobes — this leaves them with severe attentional deficits, unable to control their mental spotlight — are also able to find the answer.

Here’s a much more challenging equation to fix:

III = III + III

In this case, only 43 percent of normal subjects were able to solve the problem. Most stared at the Roman numerals for a few minutes and then surrendered. The patients who couldn’t pay attention, however, had an 82 percent success rate. What accounts for this bizarre result?

The piece is titled ‘Why Being Sleepy and Drunk Are Great for Creativity’, and is about “the unexpected benefits of not being able to focus.” (The next time your loved one asks you to pay attention, just snap back at her that you’re busy being creative.) That might just explain absent-minded geniuses—their absent-mindedness is part of the reason they’re geniuses, and not some regrettable offshoot of their abilities.

Um, what was I saying?

Posted by Amit Varma in Miscellaneous

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