World War I Puzzler, Number A

Nov 13, 1999

RAY: Hi, we're back. You're listening to Car Talk with us, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, and we're here to discuss cars, car repair, and the new puzzler.

TOM: We are on top of things, you know.

RAY: I've lately taken to reading some of my old mail.

TOM: I can see that.

RAY: And this puzzler suggestion came from a guy named Benjamin Schultz, who at the time looked like he was probably a high school student, or maybe an elementary school student.

TOM: Probably got four kids now, driving a mini van.

RAY: The letter was sent 12/31/94. Well, here it is.

TOM: Well, that's only five years. Yeah, he could be married with four kids.

RAY: He could. He could indeed, if he's a fast worker. Now, first of all, I should mention that this is the first in the series of World War I puzzlers.

TOM: World War I! You have all these little series.

RAY: Yes.

TOM: Gus?

RAY: Yeah.

TOM: And Crusty?

RAY: Yeah.

TOM: String?

RAY: String, pendula.

TOM: Pendula?

RAY: Matchsticks.

TOM: Oh, yeah the matchsticks. The famous matchsticks series.

RAY: Oh yeah.

TOM: Oh, that was great!

RAY: This is just the first in the series of World War I puzzlers.

TOM: World War I, OK.

RAY: And here it is. In the beginning of the first World War, the uniform of the British soldiers included a brown cloth cap. They were not provided with metal helmets. What were they thinking?

TOM: What were they thinking?

RAY: As the war went on, the Army authorities in the war office became alarmed at the high proportion of men suffering head injuries.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: They, therefore, decided to replace the cloth head gear with metal helmets. From then on, all soldiers wore the metal helmets.

TOM: Good idea.

RAY: However, you ready for this?

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: The war office was amazed to discover that there were more soldiers hospitalized with head injuries than ever before. It can be assumed that the intensity of fighting was the same before and after the change.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: So, why should the recorded number of head injuries, why should the number of soldiers hospitalized for head injuries per battalion, increase when the men were wearing metal helmets rather...

TOM: Instead of cloth?

RAY: ...than cloth caps?


RAY: Well, it's just an example of how statistics can lie to people.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: And have people crying out, "I knew we shouldn't have been using those damn helmets."

TOM: Right. Get rid of those helmets!

RAY: And the reason is rather simple. Before the helmets, anyone that got hit with a piece of shrapnel and wearing a cloth helmet...

TOM: Did not have any injuries.

RAY: No. He was...

TOM: He was dead.

RAY: He was a goner. At least with the helmets, people got a chance to survive and become part of the statistic...

TOM: Of injury.

RAY: Of injuries, exactly.

TOM: Better to be a statistic injury statistic than not at all.

RAY: A death statistic.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: And that's exactly it.

TOM: Wow, man!

RAY: In fact, without the helmets, they had many more fatalities, and with the helmets, they had fewer fatalities, but more injuries.

TOM: And you don't think you're going to catch flak on this one?

RAY: Not me. Benjamin Schultz is going to take it, and I hope he shows up. That little note could...I thought we were going to hear from him, but now I know we're not going to hear from him. He's going to be out in Laramie, Wyoming.

TOM: Oh, he probably mailed a letter yesterday, because he heard the Puzzler...he heard his name mentioned last week, and sent a...and now he's at the post office trying to get the letter back.

RAY: Well, I thought it was pretty good. Otherwise, I wouldn't have used it.

TOM: I love it.

RAY: I'm with you, Ben. We'll take the heat together.

TOM: I love it because it's so obfuscated.

RAY: And twisted.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Yeah.

TOM: And we have a winner.

RAY: I'm sure.

TOM: The winner is Marilyn Murphy from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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