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The worm problem



On february 28 Uri Ganiel wrote:

> Leigh kindly gave me a second chance to improve my (A-) grade for my 
> solution. As John rightfully said, ...  One remark though: the problem is 
> absolutely non-realistic, non-physical, non-ANYTHING, except that it is FUN.
> That is its intrinsic value - it makes you think, something which I am 
> afraid we do not emphasize enough with our students.

I have no doubt that it was a challenging problem. The proof is that you,
and several others, found is worth working on. But I was left outside of 
that "inner circle of smart guys". Let me exagerate and simulate a student
who is disapponted by the received grade. I am penalized for not guessing 
what the professor had in mind. I am not stupid, I took him literally and
he gave me an F. That is not fair. Physics stinks. Why should I assume, 
unless it is clearly stated, that the speed of the tractor is with respect 
to the road while the speed of the worm is with respect of a constantly 
expanding rope? Does the bug crowl as a worm (as a catapillar, as a flea)? 
This was irrelevant to me; the length of the bug was not specified and I 
assumed it was a point-like object. Therefore I did not try to deduce
the acceleration of the bug (with respect to the road) from the "mechanism 
of walking". What was wrong with my reasonning? Why was I penalized? Who
said I was not thinking? Who said my mathematical sophistication is not
good? Who said ....?

You see my point. Problems should be formulated clearly. This is trivial
but here we are. Was I the only one who felt cheated?
                                                        Ludwik Kowalski