The story goes that the ancient Greek scholar, Archimedes, was trying to solve a problem that was testing the limits of his mental capabilities. The problem that he was trying to solve was to figure out how to determine the volume of irregularly shaped objects. So perplexed was he by this that he began to stress out and started to get a splitting headache. Being a wise Greek, he decided that it was time to set the problem aside and to de-stress by taking a long soaking bath.
I am not sure but I would not be surprised if he had those wonderful scented candles all about and an ancient Greek equivalent of a bubble bath (which I learned from Elizabeth Taylor and the legend of Cleopatra to be a bath of milk and honey). Anyway, as he stepped into the bath, he saw that the water level rose. Suddenly he realised that the volume of water displaced was equal to the volume of his body submerged under the water. It was the answer to that perplexing problem that had been taunting him.
It is said that he was so excited that he ran through the streets of Syracuse naked and shouting “Eureka!” Now for us who have no ancient Greek friends, the word “eureka” is said to mean “I have found it”. Of course, most residents of Syracuse upon seeing the aging scholar run through the streets naked and shouting probably thought that he had “lost” it – either his clothes or his marbles. Nevertheless, the word “eureka” has since been linked with finding a solution to a difficult problem.
In the spirit of “Eureka”, I honor two brilliant problem solvers. The first case is actually a joke but sadly the second one is all too true.
Eureka Story 1:
The Irish Space Program was proud to announced that while NASA has decided to stop sending people to the moon and concentrate on sending astronauts to Mars, the Irish would do one better — they would send someone to the sun! Well, there was a murmur of excitement amongst the gathered reporters and one of them asked, “How are you going to solve the problem that the sun is too hot to land on?” To which the director of the Irish Space program said, “Eureka! We will send the space craft up at night!” (apologies to Molly and all other readers with ties to the Emerald Isle)
Eureka Story 2:
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is an investigative body set up to root out corruption and to prosecute those involved in bribery and mis-appropriation of public funds. However over a year ago, it was embroiled in controversy when a young political aide fell to his death from the 14th floor of the Commission’s offices. He was asked to give a statement about someone else the commission was investigating and was there on the eve of his wedding but was later found dead. MACC claims that is was suicide while others suspect foul play. A Royal Commission of Inquiry has been set up and is currently reviewing the facts of the case.
MACC had said that they would review their interview procedures and ensure that suspects or witnesses would not remain unattended while being interviewed on MACC premises and that they would install CCTV to prevent a re-occurence. So it was quite a shock when a second incident occurred this week. According to MACC, this custom officer who is under investigation had come on his own accord without being summoned (although he apparently did not tell his friends or family) to the MACC office and asked to see the investigating officer. It seems he arrived at the office at 8.30 am and waited for an hour before the officer came and took him up to the 5th floor office. The officer then left him unattended to go and get the case file and it is suggested that the man then jumped out of the window and was killed.
So what happened to the order that no outsider should be left unattended? Two officers were taken to task for not following the order. What about the CCTV? Apparently it had only been installed in the interrogation rooms but there were no cameras covering the corridors or the windows.
Needless to say, MACC came into a great deal of criticism about their handling of suspects and witnesses and their entire standard operating procedures. When pressed for a solution to restore public confidence, one embattled senior MACC officer said (and this is not a direct quote but some artistic license has been employed so as to make it fit with this post’s theme), “Eureka! I have the solution. From now on, interrogations should only be carried out on the ground floor!”
Sad, ain’t it?