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Scientists are trained to think . . .


A computer scientist, mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer were travelling through Denmark when they saw a black sheep through the window of the train. "Aha," says the engineer, "I see that Danish sheep are black."

"Hmm," says the physicist, "You mean that some Danish sheep are black."

"No," says the mathematician, "All we know is that there is at least one sheep in Denmark, and that at least one side of that one sheep is black!"

"Oh, no!" shouts the computer scientist, "A special case!"

The art of not jumping to conclusions may serve you.

Richard Feynman's Ways of Relaxation

Richard Feynman recounts,

"At Esalen [in California] there are some large baths fed by hot springs on a ledge about thirty feet above the ocean. One of my most pleasurable experiences was to sit in one of those baths and watch the waves crashing onto the rocky slope below, to gaze into the clear blue sky above, and to study a beautiful nude as she quietly appeared and settled into the bath with me.

One time I sat down in a bath where there was a beatiful girl sitting with a guy who didn't seem to know her. Right away I began thinking, "Gee! How am I going to get started talking to this beautiful nude woman?"

I was trying to figure out what to say, when the guy said to her, "I'm, uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?"

"Sure," she said.

They got out of the bath and she lay down on a massage table nearby. I thought to myself, "What a nifty line! I can never think of anything like that!"

He started to rub her big toe. "I think I feel it," he said. "I feel a kind of dent—is that the pituitary?"

I blurted out, "You're a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!"

They looked at me, horrified and said, "It's reflexology!"

I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating." [Slightly modified]

Deep meditation may be good for you too. Be allied with research.

Traversing Design

One sunny day a farmer called up an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician and asked them to fence off the largest possible area with the least amount of fence.

The engineer made the fence in a circle and proclaimed that he had the most efficient design.

The physicist made a long, straight line and declared "We can assume the length is infinite -" and pointed out that fencing off half of the Earth was certainly a more efficient way to do it.

The mathematician laughed and built a tiny fence around himself and said, "I declare I am on the outside."

Think of that if you feel yourself to be an outsider.

Scientist Tales, Talks, and Quotations, Literature  

Feynman, Richard P., as told to Ralph Leighton "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" Further Adventures of a Curious Character. New York: Bantam Books. 1989.

Feynman, Richard P., and Ralph Leighton. "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feldman!" New York: Bantam Books, 1986.

Murty, K. Krishna. Spice in Science: The Best of Science Funnies. Delhi: Pustak Mahal, 2006.

Kothare, A. N., et al. Of Science and Scientists: An Anthology of Anecdotes. Rev. ed. New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1997.

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