CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
Presumptive Conundrums

Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at

June 15, 2020 (permalink)

In our experience, spider leg pants cost 75% more (though please check our math for calculating 8 legs as compared to 2).  From an ad in The Martlet, 1963.  See Presumptive Conundrums: Rhetorical Math Questions + Answers.
#vintage ad #spider
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May 21, 2020 (permalink)

To make this current, change "million" to "trillion."  From The Gateway, 1981.
#vintage illustration #big pharma #pills #pharmacy #prescription drugs
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May 6, 2020 (permalink)

Our wizardly friend Gordon once had eleven fingers in a nightmare.  When he woke up and starting counting to reassure himself, his studies in arcane arithmetic came back to haunt him, as the math kept coming to "eleven."  When we encountered the strange hand in this ad from the University of the South's 1971 yearbook, we wondered how Gordon would fill in the circle over the thumb.
#vintage illustration #vintage ad #hand #counting #math
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April 8, 2020 (permalink)

We're delighted by this thoughtful review of our most unusual puzzle book, Presumptive Conundrums: Rhetorical Math Questions (+ Answers):
To facilitate our survival on the planet, human beings must make basic assumptions about physical reality. That's essential in practical terms if we're to maintain our existence, but for a species which craves a sense of stability and continuity, it's also a psychological imperative.  We need to 'know' certain things are true.  But can we? Since the days of ancient Greece, philosophers have pondered the question of whether or not it's possible for us to know what we think we know about anything.  Debate on this point and those arising from it has never ceased.  Neither has our common human desire to arm ourselves with 'facts', a desire which manifests clearly in our affinity for quantification.  We seem to derive great comfort from representing things in numbers and/or expressing our understanding of the world through formulae. There is a sense of certainty, illusory or not, to be had in 'doing the math'. Enter Craig Conley.  By means of presenting a series of simple and often hilarious math problems, his book 'Presumptive Conundrums' invites the reader to contemplate both epistemology and our species' profound relationship with numbers. Pythagoras said, "number is the within of all things."  Mr. Conley is a master of showing us the within of things in a beautifully illustrated and profoundly engaging manner.  5-stars. —Natasha at Amazon
Presumptive Conundrums offers all sorts of literary, rhetorical math problems that seemingly have no serious answer or provability.  It's the ultimate puzzler for logical- and mathematical-minded folks.
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March 17, 2020 (permalink)

From Lustige Blätter, 1908. 
#strange math
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February 27, 2020 (permalink)

Instead of an 8, it's a 1/2, on the page for the 7 1/2 Club in Hampden-Sydney's 1929 yearbook.
For the weirdest math that actually computes, see Presumptive Conundrums: Rhetorical Math Questions + Answers.
#vintage yearbook #mathematics #weird math
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December 27, 2019 (permalink)

You didn't need a math professor to tell you that, no matter what the song says, one is not "the loneliest number."  (But if you actually do need a math professor to tell you, Dr. Mason Porter of UCLA is there for you.)  The lyric needs text doctoring, since one divided by two is in fact a half (.5):
Original: One is a number divided by two.
Revision: One's the remainder when you once halve two.
If we do say so ourselves, our revision offers not only homophony (one's/once) but also wordplay (halve/have).  (Don't knock us, for if we received even half the literary criticism we deserve, we wouldn't have to analyze our own work.  Hint: this is your invitation to be part of the solution.)
Our headline from Greensboro's 1975 yearbook.
#math #loneliest number
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October 14, 2019 (permalink)

A mathematical love story, from the State Female Normal School, Farmville, Va.'s 1902 yearbook.
#vintage yearbook #heart #math
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August 23, 2019 (permalink)

Here's a lost page from that celebrated book of impossible (yet still somehow solvable) math puzzles: Presumptive Conundrums: Rhetorical Math Questions + Answers.
How can one prove the equation "Girls + Smiles = Peace"?  This perplexing calculation appears in Peace College's 1981 yearbook.
The answer is simple, with matchsticks.  Girls are represented by the XX chromosome, rendered with four crosscrossing matches.  Smiles are represented by a smiley-face symbol comprised of four more matches.  Four matches plus four matches equal the eight matches of the peace symbol.
That's what Presumptive Conundrums is all about -- literary, rhetorical math problems that seemingly have no serious answer or provability.  It's the ultimate puzzler for logical- and mathematical-minded folks.
#smile #math #peace symbol
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July 29, 2019 (permalink)

Two things about this photo: the number 1911 is identified as 'nineteen hundred and eighty-three," and the photo is also not a picture of Thomas Brown (according to the text above it).
"If only Socrates had stuck to explaining how we can mistake one number for another … the regress would never have got started" (David Sedley, The Midwife of Platonism). 
From Atlantic Christian's 1983 yearbook.
#vintage photo #vintage yearbook #1911
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May 27, 2019 (permalink)

Very queer numbers.  From Lucifer, A Theosophical Magazine, 1890.  See Presumptive Conundrums: Rhetorical Math Questions + Answers.
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April 17, 2019 (permalink)

Sure, I can get 103 by adding two and two and two and two … but I have such trouble showing my work.  From Millikin's 1956 yearbook.
For incredible answers to seemingly impossible math problems, don't miss Presumptive Conundrums: Rhetorical Math Questions + Answers.
#vintage illustration #vintage yearbook #math #blackboard
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December 29, 2018 (permalink)

From Le Rire, 1901.
#vintage illustration #sphinx #math class #math problem #math riddle
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November 17, 2018 (permalink)

From Le Journal Amusant, 1924.
#vintage illustration #do the math #modern art #enigma
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September 20, 2018 (permalink)

Do the math!  From The Judge, 1921.
#vintage illustration #math #numbers #computation
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August 18, 2018 (permalink)

Three hundred and fifty million flies killed in a single swat.  From the Bulletin of the Chicago School of Sanitary Instruction, 1912.
#vintage illustration #exterminator #pest control #fly swatter
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August 17, 2018 (permalink)

From Le Journal Amusant, 1898.
#vintage illustration #silhouette #sphinx #geometry #mathematics
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March 6, 2018 (permalink)

If you have trouble remembering what day it is, imagine living in the year 17 and fifteen sixteenths.  From An Account of a Surprizing Meteor, Seen in the Air, March the 6th, 17 15/16, at Night by William Whiston, 1716.

#meteor #vintage headline
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January 25, 2018 (permalink)

"Just label it a queer puzzle, and put it away along with all the other queer puzzles."  From Furze the Cruel by John Trevena, 1908.
#queer #puzzles of life #file it away
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January 20, 2018 (permalink)

A planchette reveals the mathematics of its own heart shape.  From The Survival of Man by Oliver Lodge, 1920.
#spiritualism #seance #planchette
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