scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: Spectra: Scout(er)s & Ellaphants
Gary Apfelstadt (apfelsta@SOLTEC.NET
Tue Nov 09 1999 - 01:58:30 CST
The following message is shared with hopes that your Field is touched by
How do you Hunt Elephants?
Mathematicians hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything
that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left. Experienced
mathematicians will attempt to prove the existence of at least one unique
elephant before proceeding to step 1 as a subordinate excercise. Professors
of mathematics will prove the existence of at least one unique elephant and
then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant as an excercise
for their graduate students.
Physicists hunt elephants by treating the elephant as a unstable W-Z
particle and spend a fortune developing a Particle Accelerator large enough
to detect one when a hippo and Rhino collide.
Computer Scientists hunt elephants by excercising Algorithm A:
1.Go to Africa.
2.Start at the Cape of Good Hope.
3.Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent
alternately east and west.
4.During each traverse pass,
a.Catch each animal seen.
b.Compare each animal caught to a known elephant.
c.Stop when a match is detected.
Experienced computer programmers modify Algorithm A by placing a known
elephant in Cairo to ensure that the algorithm will terminate. Assembly
language programmers prefer to execute Algorithm A on their hands and knees.
Engineers hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching grey animals at
random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus or minus 15
percent of any previously observed elephant.
Economists don't hunt elephants, but they believe that if elephants are
paid enough, they will hunt themselves.
Statisticians hunt the 1st animal they see N times & call it an elephant.
Consultants don't hunt elephants, and many have never hunted anything at
all, but they can be hired by the hour to advise those people who do.
Operations research consultants can also measure the correlation of hat
size and bullet color to the efficiency of elephant-hunting strategies, if
someone else will only identify the elephants.
Politicians don't hunt elephants, but they will share the elephants you
catch with the people who voted for them.
Lawyers don't hunt elephants, but they do follow the herds around arguing
about who owns the droppings. Software lawyers will claim that they own an
entire herd based on the look and feel of one dropping.
Vice Presidents of engineering, research, and development try hard to hunt
elephants, but their staffs are designed to prevent it. When the vice
president does get to hunt elephants, the staff will try to ensure that all
possible elephants are completely prehunted before the vice president sees
them. If the vice president does see a nonprehunted elephant, the staff
will (1) compliment the vice president's keen eyesight and (2) enlarge
itself to prevent any recurrence.
Senior managers set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption
that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices.
Quality assurance inspectors ignore the elephants and look for mistakes the
other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.
Salespeople don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants
they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens.
Software salespeople ship the first thing they catch and write up an
invoice for an elephant. Hardware salespeople catch rabbits, paint them
grey, and sell them as desktop elephants.
Taken from the electronic bulletin of the Network of Student Physical
Societies, February 1994.