Here are some of the best reader responses to our no-problem problems.
Ketchup doesn't flow, we shovel it
By Michel Wander, Canadian Space Agency Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Canada
How long will it take catsup to flow across Canada? (DN 9/7/98)
Sorry folks, but ketchup cannot flow across Canada. Unless the climate changes radically, ketchup will surely freeze in the same way the local population does during the months of November to April. Around here, in fact, coffee freezes at your desk and it takes at least ten minutes to chip the ice off your monitor.
During the winter months here the frozen ketchup and snow, sleet, ice, and small children with their tongues stuck to metal lamp posts and other objects will be cleared away by our efficient, if not overzealous, snow-clearing crews. Year after the year, the onslaught of ketchup will continue and year after year we will clear it away.
An ode by Icarus
By James A. Knoop
Using a pair of wings made of wax, Icarus flew too close to the sun, and consequently his wings melted. What is the exact distance from the sun at which this device failure occurred? (DN 1/4/99)
Following is a long-lost poem found among my Uncle Otis' personal effects, the poem ostensibly penned by Icarus himself:
I tried to fly up to the sun
And so I gathered wax from bees,
Feathers, string, and other junk,
And waited for a friendly breeze.
But as I rose into the sky,
Closer, closer to "Old Sol,"
The wax began to melt and I invented, quite by chance, Free-Fall.
In actuality, of course,
The air grew colder as I rose
(Which may be why the problem can't
Be solved the way it was proposed.)
The question, though was, "At what
distance does the failure first appear?"
At all those miles from Sun to Earth,
Less "five-feet-eight." (Between my ears!)
Chain saw combat isn't cricket
By Mike Holdoway, Plymouth, U.K.
In the design of a lightweight chain saw for personal sports combat, what is the minimum number of links the chain can have? (DN 12/7/98)
As an Englishman, I cannot read this question without great sadness.
A "chain" is, of course, an Old English measure equal to a tenth of a furlong, which is 66 ft or 22 yards. Naturally, I speak only of British or Imperial feet and yards. I eschew the Colonial's use of "yards (U.S.)," which was one of the consequences of Independence and the Americans' desire to avoid the going rate for tea imports in Boston. Perhaps, in a frantic attempt to reduce the price of tea, they inadvertently also reduced the volume of pints and gallons and vainly tried to compensate by inflating the length of yards and feet!Regarding those feelings of great sadness and loss felt by Englishmen at this problem, the reason is clear. The length of a cricket pitch is one chain--a hallowed measure indeed! The English, when they were not building empires, liked nothing better than inventing games. They gave the world football (which the Americans call soccer), rugby (which the Americans think is football), rounders (which is a girl's game in England but is called baseball in the USA), and, of course, cricket. Now, while Empire building may not be a universally accepted hobby, you would think that the world would honor the debt that they owe to England for introducing these sporting activities.
Not so! In football, England often struggles to get into the World Cup and in rugby, we are regularly ground into the mud by New Zealand. We should have copied the USA, where the so-called "World Series" was restricted to that country alone to avoid the ignominy of being defeated by a bunch of British schoolgirls wielding rounders bats.
But it is in cricket where our defeat is most strongly felt. At this very moment, our gallant lads are "down under" struggling to wrest the "ashes" from the Aussies' grasp. Following the first of many defeats by Australia in 1882, cricket was declared dead. A wicket bail was duly cremated and the ashes were placed in an urn and presented to the Australian captain. This is the trophy that, as I write, is being contested at the test match between Australia and England. But the Australians score runs in quantities that hitherto had been reserved for telephone numbers!
So the problem of finding the minimum number of links in a lightweight chain saw for personal sports combat cannot be solved. For a Brit, the very thought of chains and sports, linked together in a single sentence, conjures up the horror of yet another defeat on the cricket field by those Australian bullies. It really is not fair! It just isn't, well, cricket!