


Some people read Dear Abby. Some read Miss Manners. But for me, on a lazy Sunday morning when I'm trying to avoid doing anything useful, nothing beats "Ask Marilyn!"
In case any of you never secretly delved into that trashy Parade magazine insert that arrives in most every Sunday paper, Marilyn is none other than Marilyn Vos Savant, the world's smartest person according to the Guiness Book of Records. I don't actually believe that Marilyn is the world's smartest person, in fact I'm not sure if she's even in the upper ten per cent, but I usually get a kick out of reading her column. The column invariably features some backwoods rube who thinks he can "outsmart" Marilyn with a halfbaked brain teaser, and another who asks some deep philosphical question. Marilyn picks a question or two out of her mail bag and makes short work of them.
ANYWAY, here is the question from last Sunday's column: "How can you take eight 8s and add, subtract, multiply or divide them to make a total of 1000?"
A charming little puzzle. Roger and I sat around the table and pondered it. It's a familiar problem to me because sometimes, when I can't fall asleep, I make a game out of watching my LED alarm clock. I take a time, say 2:19, and try to make an equation out of it, like 2+1=SQUARE ROOT(9). The rule is that I have to find an equation before the clock flips to the next minute.
But I digress. Marilyn immediately came up with "the" answer, which is 888+88+8+8+8=1000. The question that Roger and I pondered was whether or not this is the ONLY answer, and if so, how could we prove it.
You may want to take a moment or two to ponder the problem with me. Remember, you can only use the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with no parenthesis. The expression should be evaluated in the standard way, from left to right with multiplication and division taking precedence over addition and subtraction. In Marilyn's solution, the 888 could actually land in any of five equivalent positions, and since the 88 could land in any of the remaining four positions, there are 20 permutations of her answer, all essentially the same. The question is, are there any OTHER equations that would satisfy these conditions.
This, clearly, is a job for HyperCard! I won't spoil the fun by revealing the answer, but I will show you one way of finding it. Just create a blank one card stack with a scrollable card field and button. Type the following short script into the button (you may want to expand the text field to see it in all its glory):

