After the problem was first posed nearly 90 years ago, two graduate students may have solved what has long been rumored to be the most challenging problem in all of mathematics: the “Pee Math Paradox.”
Zack Goldberg, a 24-year-old advanced mathematics student at MIT, and Penelope Nessing, a 27-year-old medical student at Harvard Medical School, started working on the problem 18 months ago when Asper came across it in an old textbook.
“Zack contacted me,” Nessing said, “when he realized that many of the variables in the equation were able to be tested in our lab.”
Goldberg was right. While dozens of variables including water intake, coffee consumption, bathroom distance and bladder size seemed to intimidate others and deter them from approaching the problem, Goldberg saw it as a fun challenge. “I realized the way to solve it was not with a pencil but with my body, so I spent my days meticulously measuring each and every beverage I consumed, and counting the minutes until it reached my bladder.”
When asked about the solving process, “it wasn’t easy,” Nessing told us. At one point the two students were close to a solution, but they realized they were missing one variable that was unexpectedly accelerating TTB (time to bladder) by several ounces per hour. “Turns out it was the sounds of nearby water. The sound of dripping liquids works as a tremendous accelerator.”
After that final discovery, the equation was completed. When asked if it was worth the awkward experiments, late night frustration, and 17 pairs of discarded pants, the students replied in unison: “No. Not at all. We are tremendously in debt from our student loans and we wasted an entire year on this.”