Saturday, July 30, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
In a cafe mezzanine, Clarence Darrow is seated at a table. Brion and I introduce ourselves. Darrow looks very trim and youngish. A well-kept forty-five, in a gray suit.Darrow was a belt-and-braces atheist, said already he is losing his memory a piece at a time. "When I die," he says, "I won't be any more aware of my approaching extinction than an old log rotting in the woods." Well,speak for yourself, Clarence.
Any case, he is looking good. I notice that his thin mouth is almost at the end of his chin.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
National Geographic is a magazine I gew up with. My American grandpa had a subscription from very early on, and in his basements he had hundreds of old editions going back as far as the 19th century. As a child I often spent hours leafing them through and taking in all those photos. I guess I got my fascination for photographic images from there. When we moved to Germany National Geographic was with us, since my Grandpa gave us a lifelong subscription. In Germany we spent our afternoons after school with our German grandparents having lunch with them and doing our homework till my parents got off from their jobs and picked us up. One afternoon I was leafing through a new edition of National Geographic, when my German grandafther gave me a sceptical look and told me to give him the magazine. It was open to an editorial about some native tribe in South America or Africa, and there were photos of naked people all over the pages. My garndfather was a very strict Catholic and didn't speak a word of English, so he wouldn't have known what the text is about. He took a long look at the photos, and I thought he was going to forbid me to look at this magazine ever again. To me surprise he explained to me: "These people live in regions where the weather is extremely hot. Therefore they have no need for clothes. If we lived there, we would do the same."
Although my German grandfather was a very simple man who came from a small town hidden in the Bavarian boondocks and was raised under a very strict and unwordly Catholic environment , he always found reasonable explanations for things you though he might not understand. I eternally admired him for that.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
The Munich newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung writes out annually a summer quiz which is notorious for its difficult riddles, over 4 weeks of about 40 brainteasers. At the end it's merely amazing that there is any winner at all. In the early 90s there was the following question:
A customer at the customer buys 4 items and goes with them to the cash register. The cashier types in the prices and says: "That makes $7.77 altogether." The customer protests: "I saw that you multiplied the 4 prices, but you must add them!" The cashier makes an apology and this time adds the prices up. "Well surprise: the sum is also $ 7.77!" So, the question is what are the prices of the 4 items which you can add up or multiply and still the result will be $7.77.
My pal Gerhard is a mathematician, and he told me that at our university all mathematicians working at his faculty were trying to figure out this problem with 4 unknowns. It is not solvable with a simple equation. Actually these experts agreed that you can only find the solution by going through all possible multiplications. So they wrote a program and fed it to the university computer. This was in the early 90s, so it took the computer all night to solve the problem, I guess it ran for 8-10 hours.
I argued that this can't be the way to solve a riddle that is directed to a general audience albeit a more intellectual one. There must be some way to solve it without using highly sophisticated equipment. Basically you'd need to simply try out some variations using simple assumptions, but my pal Gerhard is convinced the only stringent approach is to go through all factors...
After I found a small hint I did get the solution, but Gerhard still disagrees concerning the approach.