Monday, June 27, 2011

Asked and Answered

A social media "friend", T, asked,
Need your help .... How much dirt can be removed from a hole 3 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 7 feet deep?
I immediately recognized this as the classic brain-teaser whose answer is "none, because a hole contains no dirt," but I knew that T needed a better answer than that. Despite that awareness, I answered as follows:
Exactly as much as was added in advance.
So I snarked, signaling subtly that I knew the answer to the quiz. I knew deep down that an even better answer would be needed, so despite that awareness, I wrote another answer as follows:
How to find out: 1. Carefully line the interior of the hole with a waterproof barrier, such as plastic, glass, or tanned bison hide. 2. Apply some kind of stiffening agent to the liner. Yes, I said 'stiffening,' and I stand by it. 3. Carefully extract the liner. It should now be exactly the same shape as the hole. 4. Fill the liner with water. 5. Place the water-filled liner inside a large freezer for a day or two. If you're lucky, the expansion of the ice won't break the liner. If it does, go back to step 1 but with a better material this time. 6. Or am I on 7.? Break the ice into equally-sized cubes. It doesn't matter how many, so long as they are perfect cubes and exactly the same size. 8. Measure the volume of one of the cubes -- since these are cubes, the formula is Height x Height x Height, or if you prefer, Length x Length x Length. Depth x Depth x Depth will also work. MEMORIZE THIS VALUE. 9. Multiply the value memorized in step 8 by the number of cubes you made. Voila! The hole could hold a volume of dirt equal to whatever that is. 10. Repeat steps 1-9 to ensure you didn't screw it up somewhere along the way.
This gave me a twinge of justice achieved -- i.e., an answer not worth reading matched to a question not worth asking on a "social networking" web site that continues to struggle for a credible reason to exist. You might think my work was done after this, but I concluded my answers should be deleted because of the colossal pointlessness of the entire exercise. So I added a follow up:
Important: if you get a different value the second time through steps 1-10, you'll need to do the entire thing a third time as a "tie-breaker." This is science.

2 comments:

Paul Sunstone said...

Your wickedness knows no limits and your answer deserves to go viral.

Dale said...

Paul, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I like writing these once in a while to convey a sense of "Richard Dreyfus drooling over a castle made of mashed potatoes from Close Encounters."