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corner top left Previous Puzzles of the Month + Solutions  
May-June 2005  

thinking man
logo puzzle of the month 1 Puzzle #101
Quiz/test #11 logo pzm 2
logo pzm 3 W-kammer #11
   Enjoy solving Archimedes' Lab™ Puzzles!

triangle-square-circle Puzzle #101  
Stairs to square
  Copy and cut out the stair-shaped form below. Then cut it with 2 straight cuts so that when the pieces are joined together they form a perfect square!
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(click the image to enlarge it)

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circle-triangle Quiz #11 TOP
Trick Math Questions
(x-a)(x-b)...(x-y)(x-z) = ? How much dirt is in a hole that is 1 meter deep, 2 meters wide, and 3 meters long? You have 2 coins that are worth 55 cents. 1 of the coins is not a nickel. What are the 2 coins?

Wunderkammer #11 TOP

stupid chickensThe Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

"Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain"
- Friederich von Schiller, The Maid of Orleans

  Prof. Cipolla demonstrates in his book The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity that stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups, irrespective of race, class, creed or level of education (including Nobel laureates). It is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion.
  "Human affairs are admittedly in a deplorable state. This, however, is no novelty. As far back as we can see, human affairs have always been in a deplorable state... After Darwin we know that we share our origin with the lower members of the animal kingdom, and worms as well as elephants have to bear their daily share of trials, predicaments, and ordeals. Human beings, however, are privileged in so far as they have to bear an extra load - an extra dose of tribulations originated daily by a group of people within the human race itself. This... is an unorganised unchartered group which has no chief, no president, no bylaws and yet manages to operate in perfect unison, as if guided by an invisible hand, in such a way that the activity of each member powerfully contributes to strenghten and amplify the effectiveness of the activity of all other members. The nature, character and behaviour of the members of this group are the subject of the following pages" (excerpt, page 5)
  Cipolla's 5 Basic Laws are:
1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
2. The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people infallibly turns out to be a costly mistake.
5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
This is probably the most widely understood of the Laws, if only because it is common knowledge that intelligent people are predictable, while stupid people are not. Moreover, its basic corollary:
  "a stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit!"
leads us to the heart of the Cipolla's Theory. There are 4 types of people, he wrote, depending on their behavior in a transaction:
  Hapless: someone whose actions tend to generate self-damage, but also to create advantage for someone else.
  Intelligent: someone whose actions tend to generate self-advantage, as well as advantage for others.
  Bandit: someone whose actions tend to generate self-advantage while causing damage to others.
  Stupid: we already have this definition in the Third Law.

  We live in a reign of error. One of the imperatives of technology is to make systems foolproof. Unfortunately, human beings are often more stupid than the machines that serve them. Another disturbing element to consider is that the structure of power within groups or organizations tends to place 'intelligent bandits' (sometimes even 'stupid bandits') at the top of the pyramid; who, in turn, tend to favor and protect stupidity and keep true intelligence out of their way as much as they can...
  However, sharing silly fun with friends and having a good laugh may be seen as 'stupid' by outsiders, but according to the Cipolla’s Theory such behavior is likely to be classified as 'intelligent': which indeed it is, as long as the fun shared by the people being amused is more than the annoyance or boredom caused to bystanders. Generally the intelligence (practical advantage) of such behavior is limited to a moment of good humor; but quite often it can lead to more relevant effects, by sparking up cooperation and ideas in ways that would not be possible in a boring environment.
  'Silly' can be remarkably intelligent, while 'serious' may be awfully stupid... quite apart from the fact that innovative thinking is often seen as 'silly' by people who don’t understand it. This leads to an important subject: the relevance of non-linear thinking (as well as emotion and humor) in all mental processes and especially in innovation...

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity (Allegro ma non troppo)
by Carlo M. Cipolla, Professor Emeritus of Economic History at Berkeley.
The Encyclopaedia of Stupidity
by Matthijs van Boxsel.
encyclopedy of stupidity
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