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Flies and Von Neumann (William C. Haga)

A true story:

I was discussing brain teasers with Professor N (of the
Math Department) and Mr. Smith (a computer science student
and hacker) in my university office.  We had just discussed
the problem of the house fly that travels back and forth
between two bicycles that are approaching each other until
the fly can travel no more.  The hard way to figure out how
far the fly travels in total is to solve an infinite
series.  The easy way is to figure out how much time it
takes for the bikes to crash into each other, then multiply
that by the speed the fly had been traveling.

After that discussion, I told the story of how a student
had approached John Von Neumann, the brilliant
mathematician and computer scientist, with this same
problem.  Von Neumann gave the correct answer almost
immediately.  The embarrassed student started to say how
most people don't realize that there is an easier solution
than to solve the infinite series, when Von Neumann
interrupted him to say, "What do you mean?  That is how I
solved it!"

Mr. Smith looked confused.  "Who is this Von Neumann guy?"
he asked.

Professor N, absolutely appalled that a computer science
student wouldn't know the legend of John Von Neumann,
exclaimed, "Who is Von Neumann!  Why, he's the person most
responsible for what you've been playing with these past
several years!"

Whereupon Mr. Smith's jaw dropped in amazement, as he
looked down at his crotch.

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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