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« No Words | Main | Air and Water on Earth »

February 29, 2008


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Meanwhile I was going through my mail archives and found this old joke I made up in 1997 (a variant on a much older one!):

A cautionary tale:

The Feynmann Grand Prize was almost in sight. Nanolithography was far advanced, allowing nano-scale engraving of text: the Holy Bible on the head of a pin; an old book of math tables on its tip. Now the technique was being applied in three dimensions, with an 8-bit adder already constructed. Only the robot arm remained to be built to claim the Prize.

The lab crew returned the next morning, opened the door, and gasped in horror. The lab was knee deep in thick grey goo, the benches, desks and equipment melted down to nothing. Examination of the substance quickly revealed that it consisted solely of copies of the adding device.

"How did this happen?" demanded the lab director. "That thing shouldn't have been able to replicate itself!"

An investigation soon determined that the earlier engraved pin had been left near the completed 8-bit adders. The math book on the tip turned out to have held standard tables of sines, cosines, and logarithms.

"You idiots!" fumed the director, surveying the shambles that had become of his work. "Everyone knows that even an adder can multiply using log tables!"

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