31 August 2005


It's Best Not to Complicate Simple Things

Professor Abacus Flatscreen had a vast collection of cookbooks with little room to store them. She posed the problem to the students in her combinatorics class: How to store thousands of objects in a limited space. The students offered many novel solutions, including feeding the books into black holes and running them through miniaturization machines. These are charming fantasies, Abacus told her class, but I need a solution based in reality. What I would do, said a student, is memorize all the recipes, then discard the books. Abacus looked stunned. The student beamed. Abacus went home and built many bookshelves.

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