The Internet is full of urban myths. One of the most successful is about a lawyer who bought an expensive and rare box of cigars, then insured them against fire. A month later, after smoking all the cigars, he filed a claim against the insurance company, stating that the cigars had been destroyed “in a series of small fires”. The insurance company refused to pay, so the lawyer sued and won $15,000. The lawyer cashed the cheque and was then arrested by the police on 24 counts of arson fined $24,000 and sentenced to 2 years in prison.
The story is clearly ridiculous. People want to believe this is true not because clever crimes deserve clever consequences, but because they believe lawyers are loathsome repellent creatures one notch up the evolutionary ladder from Magicians.
The French actuary Pense LeWeekend penned the most complex urban myth. In 1952 bored with his life of mundanely assessing risk, and inspired by the enormous number of French people that claimed they had been fighting in the Resistance during World War 2, LeWeekend set about creating the Joan of Arc lemma. Briefly stated: ‘The whole pub can not be fighting, as someone has to be shouting ‘leave it John he ain’t worth it!’’ From this he argued it was Frances duty to be the girl holding the handbags and the rest of the world to do the fighting. His complex equations and intricate propositions beguiled France’s penchant for the multifarious, and soon this myth became ingrained foreign policy. A wise man once said that the truth is simple, if it wasn’t everyone would understand it, and Pense had proved him right again. It is for the same reason the entire subject of Quantum Physics is completely wrong, anything with that amount of paradox has to be. All those Nobel Prizes should be returned and Professor Hawking told to stick to the British Telecom adverts.