What book was this - mathematically dividing inheritance?
February 2, 2022 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I’m looking for help identifying the book this anecdote / chapter comes from: (to the best of my memory), after a family member does, the adult kids who are all scientists / mathematicians divide their property by making an enormous X/Y graph?

The way I remember it, the four kids/heirs went to a nearby parking lot and mapped out a giant grid on the ground, then put all of their belongings in the center of the grid and took turns moving the things they wanted toward their own axes on the grid. Then they plotted out all the coordinates and worked out mathematically who wanted each thing most.

That’s all I remember - it was a small piece of the book and probably not even an important detail, and I just can’t place where I saw it. I’m pretty sure it’s fiction and that it was recent (last 10 years or so).
posted by Mchelly to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson.
posted by Superilla at 5:18 PM on February 2 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I recall a scene similar to that in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.
posted by justkevin at 5:18 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That must have been it then - thanks!
posted by Mchelly at 5:22 PM on February 2

Best answer: It's only a couple pages in a 900+ page book, it's so weird how very clearly this stuck with me, too. Yes it's absolutely Cryptonomicon.
posted by phunniemee at 5:22 PM on February 2 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Chapter 70:
"As Geoff and Anne did before us, and the others will do afterwards, we are going to move each of these items to a specific position, as in (x, y) coordinates, in the parking lots. The x axis runs this way," Uncle Red says, facing the Waterhouse House and holding his arms out in a cruciform attitude, "and the y axis this way." He toddles around ninety degrees so that one of his hands is now pointing at the Shaftoes' Impala. "Perceived financial value is measured by x. The farther in that direction it is, the more valuable you think it is. You might even assign something a negative x value if you think it has negative value--e.g., that over stuffed chair over there--which might cost more to re-upholster than it is actually worth. Likewise, the y axis measures perceived emotional value. Now, we have established that the console has extreme emotional value to you and so I think that we can just go right ahead and move it down the line over to where the Impala is located."
posted by Superilla at 5:25 PM on February 2 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It might seem incidental but I seem to recall that part of the whole modern storyline hinged on who got the chest of old papers.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:59 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]

Solved in 60 seconds, impressive!
posted by rip at 7:18 AM on February 5

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