PT74.S1.Q17 - how the pigment known as han purple

Sarah889Sarah889 Alum Member
edited August 2017 in Logical Reasoning 877 karma

Hi All,

I've seen many explanations regarding this infamous Han purple question--none of which have addressed my specific confusion:

I chose the correct answer A during my timed take, but hesitantly changed it to E during BR. I'm still confused and I'd love for someone to read my reasoning and give me some guidance as to where I am going wrong.

CTX: How the ancient Chinese of the Qin and Han dynasties synthesized Han purple has confused scientists.
P1: A common type of white glass and Han purple were produced with the same chemical ingredients.
P2: Both were produced by similar processes involving high heat and lead.
C: Han purple was probably discovered by accident during glass production.

One thing I noticed was the how the premises give us similarities regarding how white glass and Han purple were produced, but then the conclusion randomly brings up how Han purple was discovered. My thoughts were that the correct answer will probably have something to do with this. Either that, or the wrong answers would exploit this subtle distinction.

Another thing I noticed was that, except for the contextual information about Han purple confusing scientists, every piece of information that was given in the stimulus equally applies to both the white glass and Han purple. All we know is that they both have the same properties--we don't know if one was better than the other or that one was more prevalent. So the conclusion could also very well be that "White glass was probably discovered by accident during Han purple production." We have the same exact support for that conclusion as we do the conclusion we are given. So I figured the correct answer choice could assist with this by creating some sort of supporting distinction.

A- I originally chose this because I did not initially notice the produced/discovered distinction in the stimulus. Upon BR, I noticed it and figured that A was wrong because where Han purple was produced does not seem play into how it was discovered. Something can be discovered intentionally in the middle of a forest (anywhere really), but then the following production of that thing can be in a factory once it had been improved and commercialized. To me, production and discovery are two clearly distinctive events. Also, this just contributes to the similarities between white glass and Han purple. There is no distinguishing effects of this answer choice, so, like I pointed above, the conclusion could still just as reasonable be: "White glass was probably discovered by accident during Han purple production."

(B, C, and D were easy for me to eliminate. For anyone interested in seeing my reasoning for these answer choices, feel free to ask!).

E- I never loved E, especially since it ambiguously used the term "more" without telling us how much more (1% more or 80% more?). I also didn't love that E qualifies the artifacts as "surviving artifacts." I initially figured that, the fact that white glass was more prevalent in surviving artifacts could be because 1) it was more easily preserved or 2) it was more commonly used. Then I realized that if it was more commonly used, this answer choice could be introducing the possibility that white glass was used longer than Han purple was. I thought that that was what they were trying to get us to see? That white glass was produced and discovered first and that is why there is more of it than Han purple? If that was the case, then I guess it supports the conclusion. It weakly supports it, but it presents us with a new possibility that would render the conclusion more likely. Also, this does point out the supporting distinction between white glass and Han purple that would lead us to the conclusion we are given rather than the alternative conclusion: "White glass was probably discovered by accident during Han purple production."

Between A and E, I do not like either of them. I really struggled between both of these answers, but I finally concluded that A requires us to assume that discovery and the following production process are the same event. To me, that's equivalent to saying that the birth of a child and the child's following life events are the same event. They just are not. E also wasn't a great answer. I recognize the steps and assumptions needed to choose E. But given the remaining 4, I figured (and still consider) it to be the best option because it at least slightly introduced a possibility for the conclusion to be true.

Help! Thanks in advance!


  • OlamHafuchOlamHafuch Alum Member
    2326 karma

    I think you are look to validate the argument, when the stem only asks to strengthen it. Remember, strengthen does not have to be by a lot; even a teency weency added support does the trick. Here, the fact that most of both substances are limited the same geographic location certainly makes the hypothesis more likely to be true. Hence, it strengthens the argument.

  • Sarah889Sarah889 Alum Member
    edited August 2017 877 karma

    @uhinberg I don't think I follow why you think I'm trying to validate explanation for answer choice E in no way tries to validate the argument. My issue is that my interpretation of A does not strengthen it whatsoever. Not even a little. I'm hoping to get clarity regarding how A should be interpreted, because clearly I am missing what the LSAT writers are trying to convey. But I am definitely aware that validating this argument is not what they are asking us to do. Thanks :smile:

  • OlamHafuchOlamHafuch Alum Member
    2326 karma

    Without answer choice A, one could have argued that perhaps these two substances were always produced in different geographical locations, in which case, one being discovered serendipitously while the other was being produced is impossible. Answer choice A makes the hypothesis possible, and therefore strengthens the argument.

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