Monday, December 13, 2010

On this date in history

December 13, 1642: Dutch navigator Abel Tasman sighted what we now call New Zealand.

December 13, 1918: President Woodrow Wilson arrived in France, the first U.S. President to visit Europe while in office.

December 13, 2003: Saddam Husein was captured hiding in a hole under a farmhouse near Takrit in Iraq.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Faster than a speeding bullet

No matter how fast light travels, darkness got there first and was waiting for it.
—Terry Pratchett

Fast? I'm so fast I can turn out the light and jump into bed before the room gets dark.
—Muhammad Ali

I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
—Steven Wright

I watched the Indy 500, and I was thinking that if they left earlier they wouldn't have to go so fast.
—Steven Wright

I play the harmonica. The only way I can play is if I get my car going really fast, and stick it out the window.
—Steven Wright

To fly as fast as thought, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.
—Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.
—Eric Liddell

The trouble with talking too fast is you might say something you haven't thought of yet.
—Ann Landers

Moving fast is not the same as going somewhere.
—Robert Anthony

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.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Human reasoning

"The candle problem" is a classic experiment of insight put forth by Karl Duncker in 1945.

Each subject is given a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches and asked to attach the candle to a wooden wall.
If you were a subject in the test, how would YOU do it?

Tomorrow: the Duncker solution.

Relax Max's supplimental: Duncker's problem is fine for college students, but much too simple for the people who read my blog, sooo... can you do it without the matches?