Von Neumann and Nobert

Ξ February 14th, 2006 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Humour |

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    Von Neumann and Nobert Weiner were both the subject of many dotty
    professor stories. Von Neumann supposedly had the habit of simply
    writing answers to homework assignments on the board (the method
    of solution being, of course, obvious) when he was asked how to solve
    problems. One time one of his students tried to get more helpful
    information by asking if there was another way to solve the problem.
    Von Neumann looked blank for a moment, thought, and then answered,

    Weiner was in fact very absent minded. The following story is told
    about him: When they moved from Cambridge to Newton his wife, knowing
    that he would be absolutely useless on the move, packed him off to
    MIT while she directed the move. Since she was certain that he would
    forget that they had moved and where they had moved to, she wrote down
    the new address on a piece of paper, and gave it to him. Naturally,
    in the course of the day, an insight occurred to him. He reached in
    his pocket, found a piece of paper on which he furiously scribbled
    some notes, thought it over, decided there was a fallacy in his idea,
    and threw the piece of paper away. At the end of the day he went
    home (to the old address in Cambridge, of course). When he got there
    he realized that they had moved, that he had no idea where they had
    moved to, and that the piece of paper with the address was long gone.
    Fortunately inspiration struck. There was a young girl on the street
    and he conceived the idea of asking her where he had moved to, saying,
    "Excuse me, perhaps you know me. I'm Norbert Weiner and we've just
    moved. Would you know where we've moved to?" To which the young
    girl replied, "Yes daddy, mommy thought you would forget."

    The capper to the story is that I asked his daughter (the girl in
    the story) about the truth of the story, many years later. She
    said that it wasn't quite true -- that he never forgot who his
    children were! The rest of it, however, was pretty close to what
    actually happened...

    Richard Harter, Computer Corp. of America, Cambridge, MA


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