Written by Roy Turse
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Friday, 17 August 2012

image for Maths A Level student uses Banach-Tarski paradox to prove twice as many students actually got A or A* as passed the exams at the top two grades

Faced with being on the borderline for acceptance to his preferred university place, an eighteen-year-old from Basingstoke has written a letter to the university's Maths department purporting to show that although he was awarded a B grade in Maths, it should actually have been an A.

Terry Singh claims that if you represent those students who achieved an A or A* as a sphere of a specific size, according to the Banarch-Tarski principle it is possible to break that sphere into several pieces, and then recombine them into two spheres the same size as the original. He says that this means that A or A* categories now account for 42.022% of the students rather than 26.6%, and he is one of the top 42.022% of students.

He even has a practical example of Banach-Tarski that he uses to prove his concept. He says to imagine that each grade of A level is represented by a soap bubble, the size of which indicates the percentage of students who achieved that grade. He says that that you can join the A and A* bubbles together, and with a bit of a poke, create a single bubble that has a volume equating to 26.6% of the volume of all the bubbles. Now, if you take a wire and pass it through the A/A* bubble, it splits into two new bubbles. But instead of each being half the volume of the A/A* bubble, the wire causes each to form a bubble which is approximately the size of the original A/A* bubble. So now, he claims, you have a higher proportion of total volume (and therefore students) associated with A/A*; enough to include Terry Singh in the A/A* category.

Terry has subsequently been offered a place by the University of Warwick on their Creative Writing Degree course.

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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