Mathematics. Are you surprised?
[T]he researchers propose people tell a referee how much they value certain qualities of a cake.
The referee then uses these weighted values to calculate where to cut the cake.
In an ideal world, both parties would get 100% of what they want. But in reality there's a compromise.
Jones says his team's algorithms ensure that both parties get about 65% of what they want, based on the principle of giving each person at least 50% of the cake plus the surplus as they value it.
The catch is that the system depends on honesty and requires a referee and a calculator.
The surplus procedure system can be used for two or three people, Jones says, but doesn't work quite as well for three or more.
He says the method can also be applied to other heterogeneous and divisible items, like dividing land or deciding how much rent each flatmate pays.
So consider making a sacrifice: cancel your trip to Starbucks and postpone that haircut you were planning, grab that old calculator out of the kitchen drawer and get yourself over to Palestine to offer your services as a referee to the parties there. There will be time to practice your fractions on the plane ride over. After that, buoyed by your success, maybe trips to Darfur, Baghdad, and Kabul next, and with luck you can be back in time for Christmas Eve.
The best thing about this plan is that give the size of the gift itself, you can probably designate multiple recipients and thus knock off most or all of your gift list at one stroke. Only the curmudgeonly ones who would admit to wanting a PS3 over the ancient dream of worldwide harmony would you still need to shop for, and maybe you could pick up a knicknack or two on your global errand for them too.
Plus, next year you'll most likely have a lock on picking up some pretty classy jewelry, baby!