The Scientist and the Poet
Date: Thu, 29 Feb 96 20:24:47 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: The Scientist and the Poet
Forwarded-by: Daniel Steinberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There were once two people travelling on a train, a scientist and a
poet, who were riding in the same compartment. They had never met before,
so naturally, there wasn't much conversation between the two.
The poet was minding his own business, looking out the window at the
beauty of the passing terrain.
The scientist was very uptight, trying to think of things he didn't know
so he could try to figure them out. Finally, the scientist was so bored,
that he said to the poet, "Hey, do you want to play a game?"
The poet, being content with what he was doing, ignored him and
continued looking out the window, humming quietly to himself. This
infuriated the scientist, who irritably asked again, "Hey, you, do you want
to play a game? I'll ask you a question, and if you get it wrong, you give
me $5. Then, YOU ask ME a question, and if I can't answer it, I'll give
The poet thought about this for a moment, but he decided against it,
seeing that the scientist was obviously a very bright man. He politely
turned down the scientist's offer.
The scientist, who, by this time was going mad, tried a final time.
"Look, I'll ask you a question, and if you can't answer it, you give me $5.
Then you ask ME a question, and if I can't answer it, I'll give you $50!"
Now, the poet was not that smart academically, but he wasn't totally
stupid. He readily accepted the offer. "Okay," the scientist said, "what
is the EXACT distance between the Earth and the Moon?"
The poet, obviously not knowing the answer, didn't stop to think about
the scientist's question. He took a $5 bill out of his pocket and handed
it to the scientist. The scientist happily accepted the bill and promptly
said, "Okay, now it's your turn."
The poet thought about this for a few minutes, then asked, "Alright,
what goes up a mountain on three legs, but comes down on four?"
The bright glow quickly vanished from the scientist's face. He thought
about this for a long time, taking out his notepad and making numerous
calculations. He finally gave up on his notepad and took out his laptop,
using his Multimedia Encyclopedia.
After about an hour of this, the poet quietly watching the mountains of
Colorado go by the whole time, the scientist FINALLY gave up. He
reluctantly handed the poet a $50 bill. The poet accepted it graciously,
turning back to the window.
"Wait!" the scientist shouted. "You can't do this to me! What's the
The poet looked at the scientist and calmly put a $5 bill into his hand.
© 1996 Peter Langston