Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 251): Animaniacs

“Survey Ladies” is one of the classics shorts from the 90s cartoon Animaniacs. While none of the survey questions can be stated in predicate logic (after all, they’re questions), there are many, many silly and somewhat repetitive statements that can be motivated by this cartoon:

Let P be the set of all people, let M(x) be the statement “x is watching a movie,” let B(x) be the statement “x is eating beans,” and let G(x) be the statement “x is with George Wendt.” Translate the following into symbolic logic:

  • Nobody is eating beans
  • Somebody is with George Wendt.
  • Somebody is not watching a movie.
  • Everyone watching a movie is eating beans.
  • Nobody watching a movie is with George Wendt.
  • Somebody is watching a movie but is not with George Wendt.
  • Nobody is both eating beans and is with George Wendt.
  • Everyone is watching a movie and is eating beans.

I’ll also share this for anyone who doesn’t remember the greatness of George Wendt:

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

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