# News You Can Bruise for 2005June 30

(2) The answer to this question is false.    T  F  : Seth is talking about self-referential aptitude tests, so maybe it's time to tell the story of... the self-referential aptitude test that ripped me off (nb. change to "broke my heart" for inclusion in Readers Digest).

This was in seventh grade algebra. We were given a mimeographed worksheet containing a "test of [our] ability to follow instructions". It had twenty instructions on it to follow. It said "Read this test all the way through before you do anything." So I did. The first instruction said to put your name at the top of the paper. All the rest of the instructions were to write down the answer to various trivia questions, except the last one, which was along the lines of "Stop! Don't write anything on this paper! Just turn it in!"

Ridiculous, I thought. By the time I get to that instruction, I'll have already written all kinds of things on this paper, and there's nothing after it. It's probably a trick to get people to follow the instructions out of order. Anyway, having read the test all the way through, I started on the first instruction. I completed all the instructions until I got to the one that said stop, then I stopped and turned it in.

Well, that wasn't what you were supposed to do. You were supposed to execute the the last instruction before any of the others, and never write anything on your paper. Why should you execute instruction #20 before executing instruction #19? Because #20 looks weird! Geez, Leonard!

I fought it, and lost. At the time I foolishly thought that mine was the only correct solution. But I don't think the worksheet said anything about the order in which you should complete the instructions, so there are actually a large number of correct solutions, including the one the teacher considered correct. So I could have satisfied my own sense of correctness while still getting a good score on the assignment (this was a big dilemma for me in school; it's not so much a factor now that satisfying my own sense of correctness is more closely aligned with doing a good job).

The moral, as always: don't mess with self-reference unless you really know what you're doing. Start by messing with Texas, and work your way up.

(3) Gravlax:

```     EXT. ILLINOIS COUNTRYSIDE - AFTERNOON

GENERAL MCBOMBEM

I just got off the phone with Washington. The
Gravlax is headed towards Chicago. You'd better
pray this device of yours works, doctor.

PROF. TOUCHFEELY

I can't shake the feeling we're making a huge
mistake. We haven't been able to establish
communication with the Gravlax yet. For all
we know its intentions are peaceful.

GENERAL MCBOMBEM

By golly, I won't see the Earth destroyed
just to test out your pet theories! Sergeant,
activate the atom ray!

SERGEANT JONES

Sir, yes sir!

CUT TO:

There is a huge EXPLOSION (STOCK).

EXT. ILLINOIS COUNTRYSIDE - CONTINUING

The area is covered with a fine paste of GRAVLAX.

GENERAL MCBOMBEM
(scraping GRAVLAX off his hat
with one finger)

What _is_ this stuff?

PROF. TOUCHFEELY
(tasting GRAVLAX from his
tie)

It's cured salmon, General. Perfectly harmless.

(wiping GRAVLAX off his suit)

As I suspected, the Gravlax came to this planet
to lend its salty taste to little sandwiches
and other light appetizers. But we were not
ready for it. In our arrogance and blindness we
assumed that because it had a name like
"Gravlax" it had to be some sort of hideous
B-movie monster. Perhaps one day mankind will
learn.

GENERAL MCBOMBEM

It's delicious.

Enter PETE, frantic.

PETE

Doctor, General. I just heard from the lab
in Peoria. That signal the Gravlax sent from
its ship -- it was aimed directly at its
original point of origin.

GENERAL MCBOMBEM

That could only mean...

PROF. TOUCHFEELY

More of them are on the way.

CLOSE ON MCBOMBEM

GENERAL MCBOMBEM