Archive for March 19th, 2014

Let me see if I can remember…There once was this duck flying along one day. I forget the height he was flying but he was headed for a frozen pond. His decent angle—if I remember correctly—was 45 degrees. There were some other statistics given…air temperature…below freezing. I don’t remember how fast he flying but he was traveling at a pretty decent clip. The question was, “What happens to the duck?”


This was physics class and this was a test. I thought I had gone crazy with this type of problem but it was given to us because the class was not thinking—we were not looking at the complete picture for word problems. We were instead learning formulas and plugging in values to find the unknown. In real life, the unknown can be several things and to solve problems, one needs to know the questions to ask. This problem was more of logic than calculations. In fact, the answer was not a number but a sentence describing what happened to the duck. It was one of those defining moments in life–one where the light switch turns on or stays off. (cough-cough)


I remember everyone missed the problem except one person. I was really good at physics but not this time. Logic back then was not my strong suit. I could not see it. It is like a 3-D puzzle on 2-D media (think Escher if you know he was–see below). You have to look at it in the right way, in the right perspective, from the right distance and correct angle.




I didn’t discover Escher until graduate geometry. I’m glad I did. We gather pieces along the way to put in our puzzles. Link to work by Escher: 



You have to be willing to open your mind to possibilities. That’s the key to problem solving. Sometimes you have to think about the tree falling in the forest…does it make a sound if no one is there? 😀 Sometimes it takes all of your life for things to click and make sense. For some—it never happens.


What happens to the duck? Does it matter? Does the tree make a noise 😉 ? See. We want concrete facts–absolutes–no variants. We want it to make sense. We don’t like it when it is open ended.



Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: