The University

You enter this temple of learning with some trepidation and much hope. Surely the teachers here will know the truth about Islandia…

But the rooms are full of squabbling academics debating matters of such little importance that you almost walk out without a backward glance. The seniors are asleep, and even the fresh persons have stopped taking notes.

The only thing that holds you back is the prospect of financial gain. Three of the professors are attempting to inspire their students by offering a reward for the first correct answer to their particular problem.

In one room, a bespectacled matron is holding up a medallion and promising it to the student who can tell her at which temperature a Fahrenheit thermometer will show the same reading as a Celsius thermometer.

In a second room, an elderly gentleman is cautioning his pupils that things are not always what they seem. “To demonstrate this,” he intones, “I now offer two obols to the student who can name for me a bull that is not a bull; a bird that is not a bird; a lace that is not lace; a horse that is not a horse; and an island that is not an island.”

While in the third room, a teacher of indeterminate age is discoursing on a class he had many years ago. On the first day of school, he had only one girl and one boy, and they were both quite young.

So to increase my pupils’ number and age, I offered a prize to whichever side—boys or girls—should have the greatest combined ages.

That first day, the girl was twice as old as the boy, so she got the prize. On the morrow, however, the boy brought his brother; and their combined ages were exactly twice the girl’s. So they took the prize.

The following day, the girl brought her sister; and it turned out that their combined ages were twice that of the boys’, so they won.

The fourth day saw the arrival of another brother, and again the boys’ ages was twice that of the girls’. That boy was celebrating his twenty-first birthday.

I will now offer a new prize: three obols to the person who can tell me how many days old the first boy in my class was.

Win one or more of the prizes by submitting a solution

Map of Islandia … or continue on your journey

Infinity Symbol