Bet of morias

At the beginning of 1878, a very old man was on his deathbed, when he gathered his closest ones to tell them a story that put his convictions and certainties in doubt. He said he had kept this story for over 60 years because he feared the consequences it could have for someone in his position, but now he didn’t have much time left and felt the need to tell. He also said that he remembered the details as if they had just occurred and he urged them not to question him, just listen.

Since he was a child, he was very fond of history, even in the beginning of his youth he had already visited Greece several times and carried out expeditions in ruins. It was a very common route for children of nobles like him, and it used to be quite safe, as they were always accompanied by guides and employees at the service of their families. In local markets, they bought, without worrying about the price, all kinds of objects and texts that seemed ancient, without caring about their origin or cultural relevance, even if they ended up in the piles of antiques that they accumulated and no longer gave any importance. It was a delight to assemble these collections and show them off to his friends.

It was a very typical context, it was already starting to get dark when his employees announced that there were three girls at the gate asking to speak with their masters. They looked Greek, the Moria sisters were said to be, but they spoke Italian fluently, which seemed strange and aroused even more the curiosity of the young people. They thought they were actresses and had some performance about the destination prepared for rich tourists like them. After receiving them, they came to ask them many questions, contesting what they had studied about these characters, mainly because they were carrying scissors, a large roll of ribbon, thread and a needle.

They gently explained that that band represented body and spirit, that each one in that house would be awarded a piece of length equivalent to the offer they would make. After receiving their pieces, they should unite their ends and return them, so that they could then begin to cut it in half. When they finished, the body and spirit would be separated, that is, the owner of that tape would meet death. Young people found the story interesting, despite considering the girls somewhat weak in their performance, as several of the points they knew historically did not seem to fit. They gathered all the house’s employees and they repeated the explanation, so each of them had a certain amount of money to buy a certain amount of tape, at the time they simply thought that this was the way the girls monetized that show. I (the narrator of this story) was accompanied by an employee who, despite being young, was considered extremely trustworthy by my family, when I was reaching for what I had in my pockets to buy my piece of ribbon, he stopped me, convincing me to help him. them with all the money I could, because they looked like poor girls and that amount that was destined to spend on futilities, could be the livelihood of that family. At the time I hesitated, but ended up agreeing, in my travel bag I separated just enough to keep me there and return home, and everything else, I gave to the girls, although my friends thought it was absurd to give them that amount. The girls then handed me a huge piece of ribbon, and explained that each one there should sew the ends of the ribbon they received, then they would return it and they would begin to cut them slowly until the soul was separated from the body. The officials, not having the money to spend on such pranks, received each of them free of charge, a small piece of ribbon. Everyone there did as they were asked and returned the tapes.

The girl who held the scissors and the basket in her other hand received it with a smile on her face and thanked everyone for the ribbon, with the exception of my employee, who stayed last to return it, when she returned his ribbon, a loud voice was heard. then a strong slapping sound and they saw the girl who was carrying the scissors spitting on the ground, her face looked like a hateful expression and she said something out loud, but that no one could understand the meaning. Everyone was perplexed by that, wondering what happened, and this employee with the red handprint on his face replied that he couldn’t resist stealing a kiss from the girl. Young people laughed at his behavior, saying they were sorry they didn’t try that too. The girls thanked the hospitality and with that basket full of ribbons, they left.

This would have been a merely funny event if not for what happened a few months later. Most of the employees in my family who were with me that day died the same day. At the time, I didn’t associate it with the story of the tapes, but later I learned that the employees of my friends’ families, who were there with us at the time, died on the same day as my family.

My friends and I scheduled a meeting and still in disbelief, we began to remember how much each one spent on the tape. We didn’t believe this could be true, but we quickly calculated what the order of deaths should be and the proportional time using a linear function. This seemed pretty absurd for the longer I would live compared to what was spent, they even nicknamed me Methuselah at the time. But we were discussing other scales that could better explain these times, the conversation yielded several laughs and mathematical discussions, until we said goodbye without losing our disbelief.

More than a decade later one of our friends died, and we gathered again for his funeral. Over drinks, we remembered some stories we lived together, among them the Moria sisters. One of those present began to draft some calculations and estimated based on this incident and what involved the employees, what the date of death for each of us should be. The alcohol must have affected our mood, but that sounded pretty funny, as our late friend was famous for being tough, which would explain why he was the first.

The years followed, and we lost another friend, and the approximate date coincided with that estimate. This subject is no longer seen as something funny, and we redid with the greatest number of details and precision, all the calculations and amounts paid on the tapes. The dates matched exactly, and at that moment we looked at our friend who should have been next on the list, and he started crying, saying he didn’t want to die. We tried to discredit that theory, but time passed and on the specific date it happened. One by one, my friends from that day died, until there was only me left here. I know that tomorrow will be the day of my death and I’ve known this for a long time, that’s why I wanted to tell you, because I trust you, although I don’t expect you to believe me, after all, I’m old and old people die, I’m not afraid, because I have lived long enough and I want to leave.

In the corridor, they were talking about what the old man told and they said that it must have been in his head, after all he is old, and these coincidences may have affected him and left him a little paranoid. Saying that there were flaws in the narrative, such as when he spoke of his family’s employees involved in the occasion having died on the same date, he said that it was the majority, but most are different from everyone. Another gift said that if someone had sewn the tape together like a Möbius strip, after cutting it in half it wouldn’t come apart. This comment left them impressed with the idea of how to circumvent “death” and they began to speculate more about it, about how the employee who kissed the girl received that slap on the face, if the girl had the scissors in one hand and the basket in the other? Then another in the group thought he might have handed over the Moobius tape and knowing the negative reaction he would get to the moria, slapped his own face to cover it up. This hypothesis led all the gentlemen present to laugh at the possibility, and even to say that this would explain why the old man said most instead of all. The conversation was fun and the group soon dispersed, bearing in mind that the whole story was just paranoia generated by old age. The next day, the old man died just as he had predicted, but that didn’t make his story any more credible, for as was said before, old people die.

About the post

This is a popular science story and the hypothesis considered absurd, raised at the end of the story, justifies how the old man did not make mistakes in any detail of his story, including the respective character who advised him in his youth, has already appeared as the Vicar in the short story Clash against the Dollhouse Master. Thus, we will refer to him as the Vicar.

When the Vicar heard the story of the girls who presented themselves as morias, although he had no reason to believe that it would turn out to be true, thinking about the well-being of his young master, he advised him to carry out the so-called Pascal’s Wager. Enunciated by Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century, which says:

  • if I believe in God and I am right, I will have infinite gain;
  • if I believe in God and am wrong, I will have a finite loss;
  • if I don’t believe in God and I’m right, I have a finite gain;
  • if I don’t believe in God and I’m wrong, I have infinite loss.

In this case, the winning of the Moria Bet involves:

  • if I believe in the morias and I am right, I will have a long life;
  • if i believe in the morias and i am wrong, i will have given money to help a local family
  • If I don’t believe in the morias and I’m right, I’ll have money to buy more things at the local market
  • if I don’t believe in the morias and I’m wrong, I will have a short life.

However, the Vicar saw for himself another way of dealing with the Aposta das Morias. For no matter what size ribbon he bought, by sewing it in the conventional way, at some point it would completely separate. However, by sewing it in the following way, it would form a Möbius strip.

And an interesting feature of this ribbon is that when we cut it in half, as shown in the figures below, instead of separating it into two ribbons, we form a single ribbon, half the width and twice the length:

Thus, when the morias saw the Vicar’s tape, they realized that he had found a way to “dribble death”, for that reason he hit himself with a slap in the face to justify to the other gifts why they had been so irritated with him .

Another interesting point that this short story deals with is about modeling the calculation of the remaining lifetime for each friend. Because they had the domain of the function, that is, the amount that each one spent and they also had, when they initially met, the function at point 0. That is, the remaining lifetime of the employees, since they did not pay for the received tape . Thus, they made a simple analysis for if the function behaved linearly, for the amount of money that the narrator gave to the morias, he should live as long as Methuselah. But testing other behaviors for this function, they arrived at more reasonable hypotheses. However, they needed the value of the function at one more point in the domain to understand which of the proposed models best fit, and as they learned about the function at more points in the domain, they determined with greater precision the date of death for each of the remaining models. . Does it remind you of something? How about least squares method? Where can we determine a curve that best approximates the points.

Finally, this tale also allows us to address the attitude of young people, who acquired Greek antiquities as souvenirs, without much respect or care for the objects and their importance to the local culture and history. This behavior, above all, is what justifies the visit of the morias to their residence and the Aposta das morias to the group. Which, come to think of it, cost no more than what would have been spent on these local antiques for the narrator to buy their longevity.

Cover image credits to Stefan Keller by Pixabay

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