Sunday, December 5, 2010

Solution? One solution.

Here is the solution they gave in the textbook, but certainly not the only one. The instructions don't put restrictions or conditions other than to attach the candle to the wall. It doesn't say you have to use all the materials. In the solution above, it appears the candle has been lit and drops of wax hold the candle upright, though that isn't clear. There may be a tack on the bottom which isn't shown (that's how I would have done it. You don't need the matches at all in that case. Actually you don't need the box either if you just tack the candle to the wall through the wick.

I wonder how many engineering or design students couldn't visualize this rather unchallenging problem? I think those students would be weeded out by the end of the first year, hopefully.

Did you know that the best Systems Analysts don't come from the programming community? Or any other technical field, for that matter. They come from the arts: photographers, artists, filmmakers. Technical people never seem to be able to see the big picture amongst all the details that interest them so much. They tend to stay in their boxes.


  1. The ability to see multiple solutions can sometimes be a curse.
    I can sometimes be working my way through elegant solutions to a problem, only to find my boss hammering big nails and crude lumps of wood into place.
    So my cleverly engineered tension structure never gets built.

    Of course, he started out as a bricklayer. Bricklayers use hammers to put screws into place.
    Every problem, to them, involves sand, cement, bricks or blocks, and a really big hammer.

  2. Now you've published an answer, can I go google Mr Duncker?

  3. I see the date of this problem as 1945. I then see that he committed suicide in 1940, so this is even a deeper problem than I thought.

  4. I promise, and I know you will never believe me, that I did the previous answer before seeing this. Why didn't you give me more time?

  5. Why has Mr soubriquet no avatar?

  6. You would be right about me not believing you. :) You are a programmer, after all. :)

    Mr. Soubriquet is a grit. Pictures of grits are hard to find. Unless you live in Alabama.

  7. I am not a programmer. Once I was, and only for long enough to discover I had to get things foolproof. There were far too many fools trying to use the programs I wrote.

  8. Mr Soubriquet has no avatar.
    Neither does Mr Soubriquet show up in mirrors.

  9. Actually Mr Soubriquet isn't quite sure how to make an avatar, but doesn't like to admit it. Also Mr Soubriquet has no idea what his face on the interwebnetgridthingy ought to be.
    Maybe a yokel chewing a straw, cluelessly.

  10. I just Googled Mr Duncker, though I failed to check up on how he published from his grave..
    Apparently his problem is tougher than yours. The candle must be lit, and no wax may fall upon the table.

    "All I can say is "Duncker was a fool"

    Multiple sites say "The solution is...", which is pretty numb, assuming there's only one way to do it. And further, ignoring the fact that anybody doing this in real life, should they survive, will probably be arrested for arson. What fool would stick a lighted candle into a card box, with blobs of hot wax, and thumb-tack the same incendiary device to a wooden wall above a wooden table?
    The correct answer is "refuse to take part", because your professor is probably an FBI agent seeking to entrap you on a charge of conspiracy to burn down a university.

  11. Now, I don't know if Soubriquet will believe I didn't the Human Reasoning one before I looked at the comments here.

    Because that was MY answer - dumb design question.

  12. I should have proofed my comment. That should have read, "...will believe I did the Human Reasoning one..."

  13. I'm still not sure what the Rocket Scientist is saying.
    I think my brain is failing an internation translation. Did you mean "The problem, as set, is daft" ???

    If so we're in agreement. I see Mr Duncker's plan, but I think he should have done something which is a bit more fun, like involving supporting a bottle of beer above the ce4ntre point of an equilateral triangle of three other bottles of beer. As equipment to facilitate this, I'll give you four ordinary table knives, and a phonecall to a stuufed aardvark in Irkutsk....
    Oh. neither the knives nor the aardvark may touch the table.

  14. @A. - Not a programmer? Well, you have a degree in theology, so close enough.

    @ Mr. Soubriquet - The hardest part is finding a suitable picture, as you say. The easy part is going to your blogger profile, clicking edit profile and uploading your picture. I recommend some sort of cute dog.

    I dunno about the arson.

    I looked up "fool" in the dictionary, expecting to find a picture of Mr.Duncker there. Instead there was a picture of Thoreau.

    @Stephanie - Sigh.

    @Stephanie - Would you please answer the aardvark problem for Soubriquet? It is too easy for me.

  15. @ Soubriquet: "Did you mean "The problem, as set, is daft" ???" Yes. Sorry, I was unclear.

    As for the aardvark question, I like in Texas. The closest thing to aardvarks we have 'round here are armadillos which apparently come flat and are native to roadways. I'm not sure how much help they'd be. To the best of my knowledge, they don't answer phone calls, but, admittedly, I've never tried calling one.


You must be at least minimally sober to comment!