Experiment: A mad social scientist kidnapped three colleagues: an engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician. He took them to an abandoned laboratory and locked them each in a bare room provided only with a bed, toilet, six boxes of canned food (but no can opener), and water.
Result: A month later the mad scientist returned, clipboard in hand to record what he found.
The engineer’s room was empty. The engineer had constructed a can opener from pocket coins. He then constructed an explosive by shaving aluminum from cans combined with dried sugar. There was enough to blow the lock on the door.
The physicist had worked out just the perfect angle to knock the lids off the tin cans by throwing them against the wall. She had developed a good pitching arm and was well on her way to a new quantum theory involving sub-atomic impact and dispersal patterns.
The mathematician’s desiccated corpse was propped against a wall. The unopened cans of food were stacked into a surprising solution to the Newtonian billiards kissing problem. Inscribed on the floor in blood:
THEOREM: If I can’t open these cans, I’ll die.
PROOF: Assume the opposite…