F is for Fake

The film F is for Fake tells the true story of an expert art forger called Elmyr de Hory (1906 – 1976) who made a fortune selling forged paintings to art galleries around the world.

This has got Philip thinking. ‘So, what’s the difference between a forged painting and an original?’ he wonders. ‘If a forgery is good enough to fool an expert, surely it’s as good a work of art as the original painting?’

But Phoebe is not convinced. ‘How can it be as good, Philip?’ she asks. ‘It’s just a copy. And anyway, it’s a deceitful copy, designed to mislead people. That can’t be a good work of art.’

‘But what if the forgery is perfect,’ persists Philip, ‘so that every atom is identical with the original. In that case it’s got to be as good a work of art.’

*  *  *

Phoebe is not convinced. But she is having trouble working out why. Can you help?

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Can we control what we like?

‘But I hate spinach!’ Philip is in a strop because he’s been told to eat up his greens before getting any pudding. ‘It’s stupid! It’s not my fault that I don’t like spinach. What am I supposed to do about it?’

His twin sister Phoebe is noticeably unsympathetic. ‘That’s simple, Philip. Just eat it anyway. You’ll grow to like it in time if you do. Anyway, it’s good for you. You ought to like what’s good for you.’

Philip glares at her, unable to decide whether he hates spinach or sisters more. ‘That’s nonsense. It’s my genes or something. I’m programmed not to like spinach, and that’s that. Look at it, anyway.’ He prods the offending vegetable, which squidges in an unattractive manner. ‘What a horrible, slimy green colour!’

Phoebe munches her delicious apple crumble thoughtfully. ‘I wonder if he’s right?’ she muses. ‘Can I change what I do or don’t like? Or is that just fixed in me by my genes and upbringing? Mmm. Perhaps I’d better ask the readers. They’re sure to have some good ideas.’

*    *    *

Can you help Phoebe out? Can you tell Philip how he can grow to like spinach?

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Lock them up!

Philip is cross about a story in the paper. A burglar, who admits to 25 crimes, has avoided being sent to prison.

‘Why don’t they lock him up?’ he demands indignantly. ‘That’s what he deserves! And if he’s let off lightly like this, other burglars won’t be frightened of committing crimes. The courts have got to get tougher!’

But Phoebe is not completely convinced. ‘What will happen when he gets out of prison, Philip? Surely, he’ll just go straight back to burgling again. And anyway, it costs an enormous amount of money to keep criminals in prison – we can’t afford to jail them all.’

‘Hummph! Well, at least he wouldn’t be doing any burgling if he was behind bars for a bit,’ responds Philip. ‘That’s got to be better than nothing.’


Who is right? Philip or Phoebe? Should burglars be imprisoned, or punished in some other way? And why do we lock people up in prisons at all?

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Is astrology a science?

Phoebe is investigating astrology, and she is intrigued.

Astrology tries to work out the future by studying the positions of the stars and planets in the night sky. It thinks a person’s future is partly decided by how these are arranged when a person is born. It involves lots of calculations and looks very scientific.

‘It’s just rubbish!’ declares Philip. Astronomy is the proper science which studies the stars and planets. Astrology is just mumbo jumbo!’

‘But look at its name, Philip,’ Phoebe replies. ‘It ends in “-ogy”, just like Geology and Biology, and they’re proper sciences. And anyway, it works out the future using very complicated maths. Look at this!’ And she produces someone’s horoscope, with page after page of complex calculations.

‘Just because it uses maths, that doesn’t make it a proper science,’ protests Philip.

‘Well, what is a proper science, then?’ ask Phoebe. ‘And how can you tell a real science from a pretend-science?’

Philip is not too sure about that. He just knows that astrology is bogus, that’s all.

*   *   *

Can you help Philip out? Can you explain to Phoebe why astronomy is a proper science whereas astrology is not, even though they both study the same thing – the stars and planets in the night sky?

To request a suggestion sheet about this puzzle, click HERE. Include the heading Astrology.

The willing breakfast

The year is 2041, and biologists are celebrating a new breakthrough. They have genetically engineered a pig with two unusual features: the ability to talk and a genuine desire to be eaten.

The pig looks forward to going to the slaughterhouse and trots off there willingly, happy it is about to be turned into someone’s breakfast. It also says this clearly and sincerely to anyone who asks.

Phoebe is horrified at the idea. ‘But that’s just terrible!’ she stammers. ‘How could they make something so unnatural? That poor pig, messed around so it no longer realizes what is good for it. I think it’s horrible. You wouldn’t catch me eating bacon or sausages made from it!’

But Philip, her twin brother, disagrees. ‘Are you telling me it’s better to eat bacon from a pig which doesn’t want to be killed?’ he demands. ‘That means more suffering for the pig. How exactly is that better? You’re just being illogical!’


Who is right? Philip or Phoebe? Is it better that your breakfast wants to be killed to feed you? Or is that wrong because it is unnatural the pig doesn’t know what is good for it?

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Give him a medal!

A man is walking along a canal when he sees someone struggling in the water. Intending to help, he seizes a lifebuoy and throws it to them. Unfortunately, it hits them on the head, knocking them out, so they drown.

His intentions were good, so: would you give him a medal?

Trying to get rich, a woman spends thousands of pounds on the National Lottery. A quarter of this money is given to a hospital to buy extra equipment, which saves several peoples’ lives.

The consequences of her actions were good, so: would you give her a medal?

A gunman arrives at a man’s house and demands to know where the man’s children are hiding. The man knows it is wrong to lie, so he tells the truth. The gunman finds the children and shoots them dead.

The man’s actions were good – he told the truth, so: would you give him a medal?

Think about the reasons for your decisions in the three cases above.

Which is the most important thing in deciding between right or wrong:

  • your intentions – what you are trying to achieve, or
  • the consequences – what happens because of your actions, or
  • the actions themselves

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The Duck-Billed Platypus

When the body of a Duck-Billed Platypus first arrived in London in 1798, British scientists thought it was a hoax. It looked like someone had sewn a duck’s bill and feet onto the body of a beaver. But it was no joke – such an animal exists in Australia.

The Platypus gave biologists a problem. It was covered in fur and fed its young on milk like a mammal, but it laid eggs and had a bill like a bird. So, which was it? Opinion was divided.

Not surprisingly, opinion is also divided among our intrepid philosophical twins.

‘A bird. It’s got to be a bird. Just look at its bill. And anyway, no mammals lay eggs – it’s a well-known fact’ states Philip dogmatically.

‘No, it’s got to be a mammal’ countered Phoebe, looking up from her biology book. ‘It says here that the word “mammal” comes from the “mammary glands” with which mothers make milk to feed their babies. The Platypus has those, so it must be a mammal.’


Who is right? Philip or Phoebe? Is the Duck-Billed Platypus a bird or a mammal – or is it neither?

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Before the Big Bang

According to science, the universe began with an event called the Big Bang around 13.7 billion years ago.

Since then, it has expanded and cooled and turned into the planets, stars, and galaxies that we can see in the night sky today.

But this scientific theory has left Phoebe feeling very puzzled.

‘So, what was there before the Big Bang happened?’ she asks no one in particular. Was there nothing at all, or was there something different from which the Big Bang developed? I don’t see there can have been nothing at all. The universe can’t just have popped into existence on its own out of nowhere!’

Oh, that’s simple,’ says her brother Philip in an annoyingly superior tone. ‘Time was also created at the time of the Big Bang, along with space. So, there was no “before” the Big Bang. Because you can only have a “before” when there is time to have it in.’

‘But, but that’s just silly!’ protests Phoebe. ‘I don’t see how time can have just popped into existence for no reason any more than the universe. And in any case, if the universe began 13.7 million years ago, we must be able to ask what was there before the beginning.’


Who is right? Philip or Phoebe? Was there a time before the Big Bang? And, if so, what was there at that time?

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