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Marcus and Jemima: An Illuminating Story | The Truth Lies Podcast S7 Ep3

truth lies party conversation overhear story

Our podcast The Truth Lies in Bedtime Stories, from See Through News, Series 7, Marcus & Jemima – how I deal with people at parties who assume I have children, illuminates the story with a thought experiment.

In Episode 3, An Illuminating Story, George expands on his theme with his take on a thought experiment involving truth and lies.

Next: Episode 4: Further Developments

Like all stories, it’s best to start at the beginning:

Episode 1: The Truth Revealed

Episode 2: Overheard

Next: Episode 4: Further Developments

Or for the whole thing, the Omnibus edition

Narration and series theme music by George Hinchliffe

Produced & mixed by SternWriter

Podcast sting by Samuel Wain

If you enjoyed this series, why not try:

The Truth Lies in Bedtime Stories is a See Through News production.

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Episode 3 : An Illuminating Story


For anyone who’s not entirely sure which bits are true and which bits aren’t, is there some kind of story you could tell us that would help illuminate this? 


Well, a pertinent consideration in relation to this could be the famous mathematical story of the island inhabited by truth tellers and liars. That is to say, it’s a thought experiment. 

Imagine an island with two villages on it, one inhabited by people who are compulsive truth tellers and the other inhabited by people who are compulsive liars. 

Someone arrives on the island and they want to go to one of the villages but not the other village. So crucial to get to the right one and they meet a person. So the question is can they formulate a question such that whether the person responding is a compulsive liar or a compulsive truth teller, the questioner can get the right information in order to go to the right village? 

I’ve always had a problem with this mathematical construction because compulsive liars will not behave in a mathematically exact way. They’ll make all sorts of stuff up. Maybe they’re double agents, maybe they just want to muddy the waters and confuse things. They aren’t going to behave like a mathematical formula. 

And indeed, truth tellers often deceive themselves. They think they’re telling the truth, but they’ve made something up. The difference between truth and lies is more complicated than something that’s exclusively mathematical. 

And so I hit upon a better solution than the mathematical formulations that people usually come up with in these circumstances. I thought if I meet someone on the island, were I to be there, I’d say to them, ‘Oh goodness me, I hear that in the Village of Truth Tellers they’re giving away free beer this afternoon’. And then I’d just hang about and see which way they went. 

Of course, free beer would make them go to the village with the free beer and I’d follow along at a respectable distance. That seems at least as reliable a way of finding out where to go as having this mathematical construction of a rather convoluted question. 

Of course you might find that people will say, I don’t want to be with a bunch of heavy drinkers. I don’t like alcohol. I’ll go the other way. But you’re going to get that sort of response in relation to your mathematical question in the real world. 


Thank you for clearing that up. I’m just wondering how do we introduce Clytemnestra

In Episode 4, Further Developments, we learn of George’s other children.