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A friend of mine who is a self-styled geek thinks this is really funny.

It's worth reading the comments, but don't trust all of them, such as the total number of COVID deaths in China being 1, but that may be the point the commenter is trying to make.

In its effort to circumvent censorship, this sheet of paper with a series of mathematical operations reverberates powerfully with the blank sheets of paper and the astrophysics equations of the past couple of weeks.

Other Tweets add a verbal component:  e.g., here and here.


Selected readings

[Thanks to Mark Metcalf]


  1. Victor Mair said,

    December 8, 2022 @ 4:53 pm

    From a geeky colleague:

    One other way of reading it –

    When you get the PRC/CCP bureaucracy involved, even the simplest aspect of things (i.e. 9-4=?) can turn into processes of unfathomable complexity.

  2. Rich Belaire said,

    December 8, 2022 @ 8:30 pm

    The math makes no sense. Sqrt(2) x Sqrt(3) does not equal 6
    Plus, 5 x Sqrt(2) x Sqrt (2) does not equal 20.

  3. Andrew Usher said,

    December 8, 2022 @ 10:28 pm

    You're right, the third-last line is incorrect, but you still would get 5 if done correctly as 15 + 5*sqrt(6) – 5*sqrt(6) – 10. Still ir rather spoils the point for those that see it.

  4. Isoraqathedh said,

    December 8, 2022 @ 11:57 pm

    I think it's deliberate: the solution was always there, but the road taken is much too long and mistakes have to be inserted to get back to where you wanted to go all along. Think of someone trying to do things "the fancy way" and then failing, so they have to patch things up in the end.

  5. Andrew Usher said,

    December 9, 2022 @ 12:08 am

    The steps before that are all correct though, if silly. And as I just showed no mistakes have to be inserted to get 5; I further add that the sum of numbers 15 + 30 – 30 – 20 actually is -5, so the author put in two mistakes in a row and I can't see a reason for it.

  6. Isoraqathedh said,

    December 9, 2022 @ 12:44 am

    I'm going to appeal to the thing that this is meant to be a metaphor of and note that the Chinese government has made significant mistakes with their management (the fire, the bus crash, the meaningless killing of pets of people who tested positive) and now they need to brush that under the rug, the correcting mistake. Also the maths showboating to show that they're "more advanced" and "better" than other countries.

  7. John Swindle said,

    December 10, 2022 @ 8:49 pm

    According to Worldometer China has had almost 5,300 COVID fatalities and the US over a million. China has 1.4 billion population and the US 330 million. China’s draconian policies have hurt and even killed people and crushed their souls—and may have saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives.
    Now that open dissent has broken out and the virus has weakened they’re changing the policies. The bravery of the protesters and the relatively sane government response, addressing the cause of the protests and not just the perceived threat posed by dissent, should inspire some confidence.

  8. Fred Smith said,

    December 10, 2022 @ 11:10 pm

    Thanks for the good laugh…this is equivalent to saying: "according to the CCP", almost 5,300 fatalities have occurred in the PRC due to Covid-19. Hate to inject reality here but you can't believe 'Worldometer' statistics provided by the CCP. Anyone who believes that only 5,300 people have died of Covid in the PRC is beyond gullible and trusts what they read in the Global Times as accurate.

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