A Cabinet of Philosophical Curiosities — Roy Sorensen

Each day you must take an A pill and a B pill. After you tap an A pill into your palm you inadvertently tap two B pills into your hand. The A and B pills are indistinguishable. The pills are expensive and you must not overdose. Can you still use the pills you have mixed up?

That’s a little puzzle from this book, a light-hearted yet brain-bending cornucopia of philosophical and logical tidbits. It all flows like a rambling monologue from a brilliant and eccentric professor, full of curious facts and ideas.

The flow is punctuated by many questions and puzzles. Some of them are left as exercises to the reader, but most questions have answers at the back of the book. Here’s the answer to the pill puzzle:

Add a second pill from the A bottle. Cut each of the four pills in half. Take one half of each pill. That will be equivalent to taking 1 A pill and 1 B pill. Tomorrow, consume the remaining halves. Then return to your normal regime.

Sorensen doesn’t just stop with giving the answers: some of them lead to further questions, explanations or explorations of the topic. It’s all thoroughly absorbing.

I have sought out and read books like this my whole life, so by now I’m often familiar with most of the items. But this book was like a voyage of discovery: almost every item was new to me. I enjoyed it so much that I had to ration the pages so it would last longer.

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