Debunking Email Forwards

I have a hobby that few people know about.

I like to disprove, contradict and generally spoil the fun of email forwards. For instance, here’s an actual forward I received yesterday:
Interesting fact……
At three minutes and four seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May this year, the time and date will be 02:03:04 05/06/07.
This will never happen again!
After reading this, I hit “reply all” and typed up this response:

What about 2107? Or 2207? They would read 02:03:04 05/06/07 as well.
This “phenomenon” occurs every 100 years. Please don’t forward me this same email next century.

Satisfied, I then hit the “send” button.

I can never resist pointing out inaccuracies in a forward. And I always include everyone in the distribution list in my response, even though half of them are total strangers. I’m willing to live with their first Internet impression of me as being a smarmy know-it-all.

I admit, sometimes I struggle internally with whether to reply or not. There is something inherently wrong about doing a reply-all to a forward. Since a forward is the Internet’s version of junk mail, hitting reply essentially created another round of junk mail into everyone’s inbox. It’s sort of like two wrongs don’t make a right.

So why do I do it? Boredom at work, for one. But more importantly, my goal is to introduce some accountability in sending out a forward. When you send something out to everyone in your contact folder, you are essentially deeming this item to be so funny or so interesting that everyone you know absolutely must read it. People shouldn’t be so eager to blindly forward things along. Their reputation should be at stake.

And that’s where I come in. I provide virtual public humiliation. If I receive something forwarded to me full of incorrect or illogical statements I will respond in a condescending and sarcastic manner to the entire distribution list. Sending a forward now puts you at risk of being openly discredited in front of everyone you hold dear. It is the ultimate Internet de-pantsing. Just as some people are afraid of speaking in front of a group, I am hoping to introduce a little anxiety into emailing a large group.

Maybe, over time, we might see an end to these types of forwards altogether. You’ll know who to thank.

Finally, just for fun, here’s another forward I received a while back. See if you can debunk it.
UNBELIEVABLE MATH PROBLEM! Who came up with this and why is that person not running the country!
1. Grab a calculator. (you won’t be able to do this one in your head)
2. Key in the first three digits of your phone number (NOT the area code)
3. Multiply by 80
4. Add 1
5. Multiply by 250
6. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number
7. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number again.
8. Subtract 250
9. Divide number by 2
Do you recognize the answer?

I’m not going to post my response to this, but I assure you it was long-winded and smarmy as hell. This is not an unbelievable math problem, but yes, perhaps I should be running the country.

16 thoughts on “Debunking Email Forwards”

  1. I don’t get any math problems as email forwards. You are living the dream, my friend.

    For the record, the problem worked for me. I got my phone number. As for a long-winded and smarmy reply, I’ll leave that to you. I will however say, it’s no coincidence that this also works:

    1. Grab a calculator. (you won’t be able to do this one in your head)
    2. Key in the first three digits of your phone number (NOT the area code)
    3. Multiply by 40
    4. Add 1
    5. Multiply by 500
    6. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number
    7. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number again.
    8. Subtract 500
    9. Divide number by 2

  2. If you simplify the above equation, or the original equation, you come up with
    10,000*(first 3 digits) + last 4 digits

    I rule the world!

  3. my answer was more akin to my body measurements than my phone number. i choose to blame my adding machine and not my brain on this one.

  4. First off, it does work. Try it again if you haven’t completely lost interest.

    Second, good work Freud’s Slip, and the Lion was on the right track too.

    Essentially, this is not an unbelievable math problem. There is no “trick” involved, nor is there any mathematical phenomenon taking place that “someone came up with.”

    In reality, this is how it works:
    1. Key in the first half of your phone number.
    2. Do a lot of extraneous steps involving large numbers.
    3. Key in the second half of your phone number.
    4. Do more extraneous steps that cancel out the first set of extraneous steps.
    5. Voila, you have your phone number.

    Anyway, I’m glad that this post has gotten some exposure. Be on the lookout for future bogus forwards regarding 07/07/07. I’m sure they are forthcoming.

  5. Ryan,

    Read the forward again, it specified the string “02:03:04 05/06/07”. My response was correct.

    Now, allow me to use the Nelson voice: “Hah hah”

    And you can use the Homer voice: “D’oh”

  6. What is so unique about 2:03:04 5/6/07 that stands out from others? The answer; nothing. I would think 1:02:03 4/5/06 would be more attractive since it starts with 01. And who says time in this order goes first? What if I presented the order 5/6/07 8:09:10?? I want to know who so I can point and laugh. This person obviously didn’t think the whole thing through and didn’t come up with all different variations of running numbers. Sounds like a job for rainman.

  7. i hate when forwards tell me what to do, but i did get something from this one…
    1.took out my calculator
    2.put it in the sun
    3.punched in 55378008
    4.turned it upside down
    6.handed it to a co-worker

  8. By multiplying by the 80 and the 250 you will be multiplying the prefix by 20,000. All this is, is doubling the prefix and adding the zeros needed to put the prefix in the right position. Adding the 1, just keeps you from noticing it. Then you add your last four digits twice. You then remove the 1 times 250 that had been inserted for confusion and divide by 2. The result is your phone number.

    In other words , take your first 3 digits of your phone number multiply by 10,000, then add your last four digits!!!!!!

  9. let the first 3 digits of your number be x = abc and the last four digits be y =defg

    where a-g are the digits

    The sequence of operations can be rewritten as:

    ((x*80 + 1) * 250 + 2 * y – 250)/2

    If you distribute the first 250 you get

    (20000x + 250 + 2y – 250)/2

    Cancel the 250’s


    Divide both elements of the numerator by two (distribute the 2)

    10000x + y

    Since x is a three digit number abc, abc * 10000 = abc0000

    Since y is a four digit number defg, 10000x + y = abcdefg.
    Thus we see using algebra that you end up with the same 7 digit number you started out with.

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