#1 There’s a classic joke about a mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer.
An engineer, a mathematician, and a physicist are staying for the night in a hotel. A small fire breaks out in each room.
The mathematician awakes, sees the fire, makes some careful observations, and on a blackboard installed in the room, does some quick calculations. Puzzled, he says “There must be a solution”, crawls back into his bed, and goes back to sleep.
The physicist awakes, sees the fire, makes some careful observations, and on the back of the hotel’s wine list does some quick calculations. Jubilant, he exclaims “A solution exists!”, crawls into his bed, and goes back to sleep.
The engineer awakes, sees the fire, makes some careful observations, and on the back of the hotel’s room service list (pizza menu) does some quick calculations. Grabbing the fire extinguisher (and adding a factor of safety of 5), he puts out the fire by hosing down the entire room several times over, and then crawls into his soggy bed and goes back to sleep.
#2 A. A. Milne imparts massive wisdom to his own son, Christopher Robin Milne, by writing the series of stories about the exploits of a fictitious bear named “Winnie the Pooh” and his friends Owl, Rabbit, Eeyore, and others. In his stories each character solves problems in a different way
- Owl and Rabbit over-complicate problems, often over-thinking to the point of confusion.
- Eeyore pessimistically complains and frets about existence, unable to just be.
- Pooh is simpleminded by nature, has an unsophisticated worldview, is open to but unburdened by experience, and is also friendly, thoughtful, and steadfast. Oddly, this makes him an instinctive problem-solver with common sense methods. Pooh always acknowledges the problem in a soft, light-hearted way. The opening paragraph of “Winnie-the-Pooh” – in my opinion on of the greatest opening paragraphs in literature – is one of the great retrospective moments in literature. Pooh has his moment but alas, being a simple bear doesn’t take it further.