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The Unexpected Hanging

A paradox

The judge was known for his creative sentences. For this particular prisoner, who had made a habit of ambushing his victims, the judge's death penalty came with an ironic twist. The prisoner would be executed by hanging one morning within the next week, but the actual day of the execution would be a complete surprise. The prisoner would not know which morning it was to be, until the hangman showed up at the cell door.

As the prisoner sat in his cell that night, he realized he could narrow down the possible dates of the execution: It couldn't be Saturday, because he would know by Friday noon that if it hadn't happened yet, Saturday was the only option. But then it couldn't be Friday, because, knowing it couldn't be Saturday, he would know Thursday at noon that Friday was only option left. But then it couldn't be Thursday, because he would know Wednesday at noon that Thursday was the last remaining option.

Working backward like this, the prisoner came to the realization that he couldn't be executed at all! The judge had made a grave logical error, and the prisoner would survive another week. Perhaps the judge would have time to rethink his sentence and commute the death penalty. The prisoner went into the week full of hope for his future.

And that's why, when the hangman appeared on Thursday morning, the prisoner was completely and utterly surprised.

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